The IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e. V. (German Association for Plastics Packaging and Films) rejects the proposed ban on selected plastic products announced today by the EU Commission. “With its far-reaching Plastics Strategy, announced at the start of the year, the EU Commission obliged all stakeholders in the value creation chain to share responsibility for sustainable recovery and reuse, thereby raising the bar considerably,” IK Managing Director Dr Jürgen Bruder explains. “Bans on individual products completely overturn this holistic approach, which our industry wholeheartedly supports. Instead of truly sustainable collection and recovery solutions, resource efficiency and raising customer awareness of sustainable consumption and environmentally responsible handling of unavoidable waste, we are now seeing unnecessary political gesturing.”

Product bans do not bring about fundamental understanding

Dr. Jürgen Bruder

Dr. Jürgen Bruder

When it is a question of raising people’s awareness for the careful use of various resources and changing their behaviour in the long term, bans are hardly the right option. They do not bring about a genuine understanding of sustainable consumption and environmentally conscious behaviour. “It’s really a question of how we want to live and consume,” Dr Bruder adds. “If it has become a widespread trend to eat and drink when we’re out and about, we should be reinforcing the sustainable solutions already on offer for this – without discriminating against certain materials right from the start.” After all, such bans can also lead people to fall back on materials which are ultimately even more harmful in ecological terms.” Life cycle assessment targets or also specific functional or use-related aspects, for example relating to the assessment of disposable crockery, are being ignored altogether. Take the following example: disposable crockery at major events. This is where plastic plates and cutlery provide real added value with regard to functionality, safety and hygiene. And afterwards they are collected and recovered. Why should such applications be prohibited? The IK expects awareness-raising and also the labelling of products regarding to their environmentally friendly disposal to have a more lasting effect – as proposed in draft legislation for an array of products – from beverage cups and fast food packaging to sanitary products. “In our opinion, prohibiting individual products is wholly disproportionate.” According to Dr Bruder, legislative bodies should rather pay more attention to the general conditions for recovery and reuse. Ultimately, littering should be sanctioned more punitively in general.

A more sensible alternative: EU support for emerging countries and EU-wide landfill ban for plastic waste

Roughly 80% of global plastic waste in the oceans is generated by Asian countries, approximately 0.02% comes from Germany and about 1% from Europe. “Obviously, every tonne of waste is a tonne too much”, states Dr. Bruder. “The EU should, above all, help to develop sustainable waste management structures in those emerging nations that contribute to the global problem the most.”

The IK takes the view that, also within the EU, the EU Commission should concentrate on the consistent implementation of existing waste legislation in all EU member states and on an EU-wide landfill ban for plastic waste. Plastics are much too valuable to simply be dumped. Experience has shown that EU member states which have declared such a landfill ban perform best when it comes to plastic recycling. “With respect to the environment, we consider a landfill ban to be potentially more effective. The IK believes that it would make more sense to invest political energy in closing the loop and informing citizens instead of introducing bans,” says Dr Bruder, summing up the IK position.

Single use – a misleading term in the draft of the EU directive

We consider the phrase “single-use plastics”, also and especially when translated into German, to be misleading with regard to a host of applications. In this respect, people are often led to believe that disposable products in general are throwaway items and therefore to be avoided. “Single-use”, however, is often a reasonable response to particular product characteristics or hygiene requirements which can in many cases only be satisfied by the use of plastics. Take blood bags, disposable contact lenses or packaging for fresh meat, for example.