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bioplasticsMAGAZINE_1306

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bioplasticsMAGAZINE_1306

People Politics By

People Politics By Michael Thielen New steps in European Bagislation (Photo: iStock, MikaelEriksson) n early November a new proposal by the European Commission (EC) to amend the European Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPDW) caused quite some excitement throughout the industry. This article comprises some facts and some opinions. The proposal of the EC [1] requires Member States to reduce their use of lightweight plastic carrier bags. Lightweight carrier bags under this definition are bags with a thickness below 50 µm. These bags are less frequently reused than thicker ones, and often end up as litter, as stated in a press release by the European commission [2]. Member States of the European Union can choose the measures they find most appropriate, including charges, national reduction targets or a ban under certain conditions. Lightweight plastic bags are often used only once, but can persist in the environment for hundreds of years, often as harmful microscopic particles that are known to be dangerous to marine life in particular. EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “We’re taking action to solve a very serious and highly visible environmental problem. Every year, more than 8 billion plastic bags end up as litter in Europe, causing enormous environmental damage. Some Member States have already achieved great results in terms of reducing their use of plastic bags. If others followed suit we could reduce today’s overall consumption in the European Union by as much as 80%.” So the overall aim is to promote waste prevention and reduce littering [3]. Bioplastic bags could be a good alternative The industry association European Bioplastics basically welcomes this proposal. “The proposal of the European Commission aiming to reduce the consumption of plastic carrier bags in the EU is an important first step in the direction of a more sustainable economy“, said François de Bie, Chairman of European Bioplastics [4]. Keeping in mind the guiding principles of a circular economy and increased resource efficiency, the initiative should also be the opportunity for legislators to promote biobased products, such as bioplastics. European Bioplastics recommends that the measures brought forward to reduce the consumption of plastic bags should also allow for flexibility in Member States when dealing with bioplastic shopping bags. Exempting biobased and/or biodegradable/compostable plastics, due to their different specific environmental benefits (see below), from any measures intended to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags should be considered [4]. European Bioplastics advocates the reduction of carrier bag consumption in general, and endorses the basic approach of the Commission’s proposal to amend the PPWD. This proposal allows Member States to derogate from Article 18 of the PPWD (which obliges Member States not to impede the placing on the market of their territory of packaging which satisfies the provisions of that Directive [3]). European Bioplastics further advocates considering specific promoting measures for bioplastic alternatives [4]. 46 bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/13] Vol. 8

Politics “Under this Directive, the Italian plastic bag law would be finally validated. This law banned fossil-based lightweight plastic carrier bags, and allows only single use bags that are compostable according to EN 13432 to be utilised,” added Francois de Bie. European Bioplastics supports also the exemption of biobased, non-biodegradable shopping bags, that contain at least 50% biobased content, from restricting market regulations. Promoting measures for bioplastic alternatives would address environmental issues and drive building a biobased economy at the same time” [4]. Some more opinions Harald Kaeb, narocon, added: “Positioning bioplastics as an exemption to a widely accepted reduction target which addresses over-use and environmental issues, is not the most elegant way of promoting their use. I am missing advocacy of the industry for the use of durable, reusable and recyclable bioplastic bags. I have seen fantastic nonwoven bags for life made of PLA and biobased PE is much more used for reusable bags. Such products would not benefit from bagislation as it stands today.” Braskem is a producer of biobased polyethylene. Marco Jansen (Commercial Director Renewable Chemicals Europe & North America at Braskem) said: “Braskem’s biobased polyethylene is a renewable raw material to produce a wide variety of plastic products including carrier bags, both single-use and durable ones. The product offers a more sustainable alternative for fossil based polyethylene products. It is fully recyclable within existing polyethylene waste streams and nonbiodegradable. The biobased PE bags offer a contribution to the circular economy, a reduction in carbon footprint and after recycling (the preferred option) a potential feedstock for bioenergy. So for both, multiple and single use carrier bags the target must be to collect, recycle and finally incinerate carrier bags” [5]. “Not the wallthickness of the bags should be considered, but their weight, as the Commission’s proposal is related to lightweight bags,” said Stefano Facco, Novamont’s director of new business development. “Bag producers could easily overcome a 50 µm rule by adding calcium carbonate, recycled material or foaming agents, all of which would also reduce the quality of a bag,” he said. “I suggest that bags below 50 grams (!) should be compostable and heavier bags should be made of biobased plastics. By the way, the weight of a bag is much easier to police than the gauge” [5]. Marco Versari, Chairman of the Board of the Italian association Assobioplastiche said: “The adoption of the draft directive recognizes our country’s efforts, since we have been working successfully for years to reduce the use of bags made from traditional plastics, supporting the uptake of reusable and compostable bags. It has now been proved, including at European level that the ban on the sale of non-reusable traditional plastic shopping bags falls fully within the measures that Member States can adopt in order to reduce usage, thereby addressing associated environmental problems.” And he added: “Assobioplastiche will continue to work at the European level to follow the path of the directive and promote application of the Italian law which has now finally and officially been approved” [6]. The German IK (Association of Plastic Packaging) stated that for Germany there is no need for a plastic bag ban. Today, 98% of all plastic packaging is disposed of within an excellent disposal and recycling system, a high quota which has officially been confirmed by the EU commission. The successful implementation of this disposal concept has largely been achieved thanks to the highly motivated participation of German consumers. German plastic bags therefore do not end up either in the European seas nor do they constitute a littering problem on dry land. A further suggestion by the EU commission to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags by means of penalty taxes as an alternative, is not very constructive. „Only suitable disposal systems in combination with educating the population will prevent marine litter on a large scale,“ IK managing director Ulf Kelterborn stated [7]. Our Covergirl Irina says: “In this world we really do need more solutions against pollution. Like bioplastics. I feel that for my health and for the environment bioplastics are a safer solution and makes a better world. Everyone should use it.” bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/13] Vol. 8 47

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