A representative of the Paris-based Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will make a presentation at the 2018 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference Europe, which takes place Nov. 6-7 in Prague.
Peter Börkey, the principal administrator of the OECD Environment Directorate, will review findings from an OECD report completed in May of this year which found that plastic recycling is failing to reach its full potential as low recovery rates of plastic scrap, poor quality of recycled plastic and a lack of price incentives are holding back secondary plastic markets.
The report, titled “Improving Markets for Recycled Plastics: Trends, Prospects and Policy Responses,” attributes the lag in plastic recycling to the fact that it is still cheaper to make new plastic than to produce recycled plastic, partly because of the difficulties involved with separating out different plastic polymers. Moreover, primary plastic can be priced much higher than recycled plastic as it tends to be of much better quality, the report states. Issues with the presence of hazardous chemical additives that can survive in recycled plastic also weigh on secondary markets. The world produces around eight times as much new plastic as recycled plastic.
The OECD report also advocated, however, that given rising public concern over plastic pollution, governments should act urgently to encourage more and better recycling.
The report calls for stronger incentives for better design of plastic goods to ensure easy recycling, as well as investment in waste collection infrastructure and ensuring that different types of plastic are properly separated at source. It also recommends the introduction of product labels showing recycled content to help create consumer-driven demand for recycled plastics. In some sectors, required levels of recycled content in goods could be set.
The report also suggests heavier taxes on the manufacture or use of new plastics, including the types of fees that are being introduced making consumers pay for single-use plastic bags, cutlery or drinking straws.
“[The] increasingly pervasive use and inadequate disposal [of plastics has] significant environmental impacts,” OECD says in its report. “The manufacture of plastic is highly resource-intensive and accounts for 4 percent to 8 percent of global oil and gas consumption. Waste plastics can remain in the environment, harming wildlife and marine creatures, for centuries. Yet, globally only around 15 percent of plastic [scrap] is collected for recycling. A quarter is incinerated. The rest ends up in landfill, is burnt in the open air—releasing pollutants and greenhouse gases—or dumped in nature. Much ends up in oceans.”
OECD bills itself as an intergovernmental economic organization with 35-member countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade.
More information on the Prague event, including how to register, can be found here.