In Europe too much plastic waste, a conservatively estimated more than 30%, end up in landfills. Maurer is a supporter of a global landfill ban and believes that this is the only way to prevent influxes of millions of tons of plastic from ending up in our oceans and breaking down into micro-plastics. Maurer said “we need to talk globally – oceans don’t have borders, however we also need to be working on the chemistry of plastics materials. Products need to be made with materials that are designed to be recycled and do not contain toxic additives that can make recycling difficult”. Where plastic is used in more complex consumer products it must not facilitate early obsolescence; products must be designed to be refurbished and to be repairable.
“Producers know their material best and for recyclers it is extremely important to have that same knowledge, so there is a lot to be done to facilitate this knowledge transfer. Yet there are plenty of things that can be done to enhance domestic plastic recycling, by setting targets to recycle more, and by creating incentives for high-quality recycling and by increasing the supply side through better separate collection and a landfill ban for separately collected plastic waste.”
Speaking on burning plastics, Maurer said this should be avoided as in burning the energy used in the process for making plastic is lost and burning will ultimately become less attractive as the plastic of tomorrow (the better recyclable plastic) will naturally lead to more recycling. Where burning is a solution it must strictly happen with the limits of the waste hierarchy. The argument against plastic burning is given further weight when climate change is considered – until 2050 we have a maximum budget of 1,000 billion tons of CO2 emissions to respect if we want to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
Maurer finishes by saying that he would like to see plastic get rid of its negative image as an omnipresent, cheap and easily breakable material.
Stuart Foster, CEO of Recoup said “This is such an important year for the European Commission with the ongoing development of the Circular Economy package. Following an excellent presentation at our 2014 event, we are delighted that Dr Maurer will be joining the debate at the Recoup Plastics Recycling Conference on 29th September 2016. It promises to be a thought provoking day.”