Breakfast debate in the European Parliament.

9. September 2018

The future of plastics.

On 25 September 2018, Mr. Lukas Mandl, Member of the European Parliament, invited to a breakfast debate in the European Parliament. Title of the debate: ‘Plastics: Part of the problem or ready for the future?’.

55 stakeholders from relevant companies within the political dossier, industry stakeholders, NGOs, politicians and staff from the institutions of the European Union attended the debate. Thanks to the large amount of people, an open and exciting discussion was guaranteed.

Also, the panel of experts consisted of a high-profile round: Manfred Stanek, CEO of Greiner Packaging International. Bart Vandewaetere, Head of Communications and Governmental Affairs of Nestlé. Julia Riss, Brussels office manager of the REWE Group. Mark Demesmaeker, MEP. Hugo Schally, Head of Sustainable Production in the EU Commission. And Justine Maillot, EU Policy Officer of the Rethink Plastics Alliance.

The core question of the one-hour discussion was the way our society deals with plastic products. The aim was to capture the most important opinions and point of views while at the same time clarifying open questions.

A coordinated global approach.

With regard to the manufacturing companies, attention was particularly drawn to the considerable political and ecological significance of plastic products. Hence, the task of politics should not be to prejudice the economic strength of this sector. Environmentally harmful products should rather be replaced by existing alternative products. Where there is no actual – as in the overall eco-balance – more sustainable alternative to plastic products, a clear commitment to plastic products is needed. As a result, the participants agreed that the proportion of the recycled amount in the products must be increased significantly. Therefore, the producing plastic companies propose a better integration of the free markets in knowledge transfer. In doing so, core research and existing recycling methods can be improved. That is why the aim should be to make new products more sustainable in product design, in the material structure and in the production process.

The debate revealed that a functioning waste management as well as a coordinated global approach is needed in dealing with plastic products. Likewise, the debate was an ideal opportunity to create a platform for constructive and substantive exchange of views. The commitment is to continue the contribution to a common solution for the sustainable use of plastic products. Consequently, a European solution should lay the foundations for a global sustainable use of plastic as a valuable material.

Background of the event.

As part of the European Commission’s circular economy package, in January 2018, the Commission published a comprehensive strategy for dealing with plastics. In May 2018, the legislative proposal for a directive on reducing the impact of single-use plastic products on the environment followed. This proposal sets out to regulate the handling of the ten most disposable plastic products found on shore or in oceans.

The European Parliament tabled the Commission proposal in the responsible Committee of Environment. It is headed by the Belgian MEP Frédérique Ries. The differences in substance in the parliament was reflected by the altogether over 1200 amendments.

The Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl from the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), together with the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and Greiner Packaging International, organised the breakfast debate on the current discussions. It was the aim to bring together high-level representatives of the plastics industry and their downstream value chains, NGOs, representatives of European institutions and civil society stakeholders to exchange views.