• June 16, 2019
  • Ecos

ECOS report: "For better not worse: applying ecodesign principles to plastics in the circular economy"


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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - Plastic has quickly become one of the most ubiquitous materials used in products. Since the 1950s plastic boom, it has replaced steel in cars, glass and paperboard in packaging, cotton in clothes and wood in furniture. Plastic is cheap to produce and very versatile; it can be rigid or made to bend and stretch, and can be inherently durable.

However, concerns have risen considerably in recent years as plastic pollution levels reached unprecedented heights and plastic items accumulate in the environment and landfills, especially in developing countries. 

The way we currently design, produce, consume and dispose of plastic is highly unsustainable and inefficient. In order to minimise the environmental footprint of one of the most widely used materials in countless products, plastic requires a comprehensive ecodesign approach. This approach has already been proven highly effective when implemented, even if only partially, in energyrelated products using the Ecodesign Directive. This ecodesign principle should be applied to each individual sector which heavily uses plastic, namely packaging, construction, electronics, automotive, furniture and textiles.

There are drawbacks and risks associated to each part of the entire lifecycle of plastic. This is why it is crucial to rethink the place of plastic in our society, as well as develop the necessary tools and consolidate existing initiatives to provide solutions for a more responsible approach to plastic. It is no longer about being slightly less environmentally damaging, it is about fundamentally and comprehensively reshaping our policy as the EU plans its next steps in implementing its Circular Economy and Plastics Strategies, including the recently agreed Single Use Plastics Directive. 

To help shape future priorities, this report, based on a scientific background study conducted by VITO in collaboration with Ökopol, provides a comprehensive analysis of the existing policy tools that can drive an ecodesign approach for plastic and products containing plastic, and identifies gaps and legislative needs. 

To help shape future priorities, this report, based on a scientific background study conducted by VITO in collaboration with Ökopol, provides a comprehensive analysis of the existing policy tools that can drive an ecodesign approach for plastic and products containing plastic, and identifies gaps and legislative needs. 

This report examines the existing measures and potentially relevant new approaches within a number of sectors which heavily rely on plastic, including packaging, construction, electronics, automotive, furniture and textiles. The study assesses a wide range of criteria and tools available in horizontal and product regulations, as well as the so-called soft tools such as standards, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes and the EU Ecolabel. The report also looks at the potential of these tools for driving circularity and opportunities for extending promising solutions to other sectors. 

Further to the analysis of the existing policy tools against their actual implementation and their potential for being mainstreamed, the report provides a set of four policy recommendations.

Our analysis has clearly shown that future circular economy actions will require a set of consistent policy decisions on plastic: Europe needs to develop a harmonised ecodesign approach, applied and adapted across different sectors.

Link to the full report

                   

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