Denmark urges EU countries to focus on a green future
The European Union must adopt a new set of environmental policies with a greater focus on the circular economy, recycling and sustainability, declared Danish Environment Minister Lea Wermelin before meeting with its European colleagues in Helsinki, at an informal Council meeting. Many of the EU's sustainable production and consumption policies expire in 2020. At the meeting, Ministers will, among other things, discuss how the EU can promote the circular economy to a greater extent - that is, environmentally friendly products and recycling.
Although Denmark is seen as one of the greenest countries in the world it also holds the record of creating the most household-like waste per capita in Europe. "It is a boring Europe record that we must get rid of through more sustainable production and more sustainable consumption. In many areas, the EU has tightened its legislation and goals in recent years in climate, recycling and environmentally friendly design. But we need to set the pace much higher in the transition to a more circular economy if we want the waste amount down and the recycling up", said Lea Wermelin.
Several European countries have adopted tighter regulation on plastic in order to reduce its use in packaging and also to increase the recycling rate. In the EU, less than a third of plastic waste is recycled. According to data collected by the European Commission, 40% of the plastic is produced by the packaging industry, 22 comes from the consumer and household goods, 20% from building and construction, 9% in the automotive industry, 6% from electrical and electronic equipment and 3% is produced in agriculture. 39% of it ends up incinerated, 31% is landfilled and only 30% is recycled. In September last year, the European Parliament backed a strategy for plastic, which calls for all plastic packaging waste to be recyclable by 2030.
Half of the plastic collected for recycling is exported to be treated in countries outside the EU. Reasons for the exportation include the lack of capacity, technology or financial resources to treat the waste locally.
The low share of plastic recycling in the EU means big losses for the economy as well as for the environment. It is estimated that 95% of the value of plastic packaging material is lost to the economy after a short first-use cycle.