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Paving the Way to a Sustainable Tomorrow: Plastics Europe’s ‘Transition’ Roadmap

In October 2023, Plastics Europe and its members published the ‘Plastics Transition’ roadmap, which not only addresses urgent issues related to plastics and their environmental impact, but also outlines the industry’s plan to significantly reduce total annual carbon emissions by 55% by 2050. With a strong commitment to achieving carbon neutrality, effectively managing plastic waste, and promoting the responsible use of plastics, this roadmap represents a crucial milestone in the industry’s journey toward a sustainable future.

Plastics Europe’s vision is clear: a sustainable plastics system that caters to consumer and societal needs while propelling downstream industries through strategic support. The ‘Plastics Transition’ roadmap is at the helm of this transformative journey, serving as the guiding plan for this significant shift in the industry.

Marco ten Bruggencate, President of Plastics Europe and Commercial Vice President for Packaging and Specialty Plastics EMEA at Dow, highlighted the urgency for a sustainable vision in the plastics industry. “We had to create a vision for a sustainable plastics system that keeps up with consumer and societal demands,” said Marco ten Bruggencate. “With rising concerns about the environmental impact of plastics, it has become crucial for industry leaders to adapt to changing realities and foster innovative solutions.” emphasized as well.

“The Plastics Transition” roadmap, as described by the Managing Director of Plastics Europe, Virginia Janssens, is a living document that adapts to evolving insights and industry dynamics. It plays a pivotal role in fostering an ongoing dialogue and shaping policy decisions.

The ‘Plastics Transition’ roadmap stands on three robust pillars:

1. Fostering Sustainable Use of Plastics: Ensuring the safe and environmentally responsible production and use of plastic applications is a key priority. Plastics Europe members are continually developing innovative actions, tools, and methodologies not only to meet legal obligations but also to promote safety and sustainability. This includes collaborating with value chain partners, responsible management of additives, preventing pellet loss during production, and addressing knowledge gaps to prevent plastic leakage.

2. Making Plastics Circular: Plastics producers are actively reimagining their approach to product reuse, design, and business models. The emphasis lies on fostering circular business models, advancing mechanical and chemical recycling, and expanding plastic production through sustainable sources such as biomass and captured carbon. Key to this transition is the availability of circular feedstock and creating incentives for circular solutions.

3. Making the Plastics Life Cycle Net-Zero: In pursuit of a net-zero greenhouse gas target, the industry is focusing on levers like heightened energy efficiency, the use of low-carbon fuels, low-carbon electricity in production, and the implementation of carbon capture and storage. This entails accessing low-carbon energy, establishing global competitiveness, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in plastic conversion, and minimizing incineration of plastic waste.

Plastics Europe is not merely proposing change; it’s calling for urgent action. The European trade association calls on the European Commission to initiate a Clean Transition Dialogue with the plastics industry. This dialogue, with a keen focus on enablers, investments, and obstacles, aims to pave the way for a circular, net-zero, and sustainable plastics system in Europe. The strategic role of the plastics industry in European Union’s green transition goals takes centre stage, underlining the need for cohesive collaboration between industry leaders and policymakers.

Rob Ingram, CEO at INEOS Olefins & Polymers Europe and an active member of Plastics Europe Steering Board, invites collaboration, emphasising that the roadmap should be viewed as an invitation to challenge our thinking and identify areas where we can join forces and progress faster together.

As the European plastics industry aims for net-zero targets, The ‘Plastics Transition’ roadmap signals not just change but a collective commitment to a sustainable and competitive future. Plastics Europe calls for collaboration to navigate this transformative journey.

Beyond its launch, the roadmap will continue to provide a structured framework with milestones and indicators, facilitating ongoing assessment and adaptation. The industry is committed to transparency, with a survey-driven evaluation of progress against circularity and greenhouse gas emission goals. This iterative approach ensures that the plastics industry remains on course for a sustainable tomorrow.

We invite you to stay connected for the latest updates and insights on the next phase of the ‘Plastics Transition’ roadmap.