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Date : Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Tackling Plastic Pollution in Europe: Ramping Up Efforts for a Healthier Environment

Energy, Environment and Climate
Date: Thursday, 14 March 2019 09:15 - 16:30

Plastic production, which has increased twentyfold since 1964 (Ellen McArthur Foundation, 2016), generates a turnover of billions of dollars per year, and employs millions of people world-wide. This industry however, is also the cause of littering and leakage of plastic waste that harms the environment and may affect human health through the food chain and air. The EU alone produces 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste per year (Plastics Europe, 2016) of which approximately 150.000 to 500.000 tonnes enter the oceans (Eunomia, 2016). Other sources indicate that around 40 pieces of marine litter can be found in every km2of water of the Mediterranean Sea.

Many European citizens are worried about the impact that everyday products made of plastic will have on their health, and the environment (Eurobarometer 468, 2017). The EU is working towards setting out a ‘circular’ plastics economy, in which the industry, governments and citizens work together to ensure that plastics never become waste and the amount of marine litter is reduced. In January 2018 the Commission published its “European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy” proposing among other things that all plastic packaging should be designed to be recyclable or reusable by 2030. Under Horizon 2020 the EU has funded several projects for research and development linked to plastics in the circular economy. Examples include the CIRC-PACK on the development of biodegradable plastics, RES URBIS, to use urban biowaste for the production of bioplastic, and FORCE to facilitate the cooperation of cities for circular economy recycling.  The Commission is also taking active steps to reduce marine litter, which it aims to cut by 30% by 2020 through enforcement of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation, the Directive on Port Reception Facilities and the support of multilateral initiatives such as the Barcelona Convention for the Mediterranean region.

Despite these promising initiatives and the recent single-use plastics ban approved by the European Parliament, there are still challenges to overcome in the fight against plastic pollution: The quality of recycled plastics is increasing, but the overall uptake of recycled plastics remains low. Plastics production and the incineration of plastic waste give rise globally to approximately 400 million tonnes of CO2 a year. More research is needed to improve our understanding of the sources and impacts of microplastics, including their effects on the environment and health, and to develop innovative solutions to prevent their dissemination.

This timely international symposium will provide an invaluable opportunity to discuss current challenges related to plastic pollution and to assess the suitability of the measures set out by the EU to achieve a ‘circular’ plastics economy. The participants will also review the initiatives put in place by the Commission to reduce marine litter and explore ways of stepping up the recycling of plastics. Public Policy Exchange welcomes the participation of all key partners, responsible authorities and stakeholders. The symposium will support the exchange of ideas and encourage delegates to engage in thought-provoking topical debates.

Delegates will:

  • Gain knowledge and insights on the new EU’s ‘circular’ plastics economy strategy and analyse the consequences of the Single Use Plastic ban.
  • Assess whether the new rules proposed by the Commission in its European Strategy for Plastics are a fit response to the challenges that lay ahead in tackling plastic waste, and address key priorities for future legislation.
  • Learn about the measures adopted by the Commission to curb marine litter and the repercussions of this form of pollution to several EU activities.
  • Look at ways of incentivising investment in recycled and innovative plastics and the creation of viable markets for these products.
  • Understand the sources and impacts of microplastics, as well as ways of preventing their dissemination.
  • Look at technological innovations to improve the economics and quality of plastics recycling.
  • Discover cross border and cross sector partnerships fighting plastic pollution.
  • Take part in lively and interactive discussions with key stakeholders in the field of waste management policy and build lasting partnerships.


09:15 Registration and Morning Refreshments
10:00 Chair's Welcome and Opening Remarks

Analysing the EU’s ‘circular’ Plastics Economy Strategy

  • Examining the latest European initiatives on plastic pollution, and the consequences of the Single Use Plastic Ban
  • Exploring the new rules on waste management proposed by the Commission in its European Strategy for Plastics
  • Looking into EU Funding Instruments, Projects and Partnerships aiming to curb plastic pollution and reinforce the ‘circular’ plastics economy (CIRC-PACK, RES URBIS, FORCE, etc.)
10:40 First Round of Discussions
11.10 Morning Coffee Break

Reducing Marine Litter & Understanding the Consequences of Plastic Pollution

  • Assessing the EU measures to reduce marine litter; the EU Waste Shipment Regulation and the Directive on Port reception Facilities
  • Examining the repercussions of marine litter to EU activities such as fisheries, tourism and shipping
  • Analysing the negative impact of plastic incineration for the environment
  • Understanding the origin, routes of travel, and effects on human health of microplastics and discussing the concern over oxo-plastics
12:00 Second Round of Discussions
12.30 Networking Lunch

Stepping up the Recycling of Plastics: Increasing Cooperation across the Value Chain

  • Exploring ways of expanding and modernising the EU’s sorting and recycling capacity
  • Looking into the opportunities of using alternative feedstocks in plastic production
  • Designing new technological solutions to achieve better sorting and traceability of materials
14.00 Third Round of Discussions
14:30 Afternoon Coffee Break

Choosing the Right Enabling Tools to Achieve Environmental Policy Objectives

  • Analysing the potential of the Ecodesign Directive for plastic products in reducing Plastic Waste
  • Ensuring adequate funding: Green Public Procurement and other EU Market-Based instruments and investment opportunities
  • Examining the importance of cross-industry dialogue to create viable markets for recycled and renewable plastics
15.20 Fourth Round of Discussions
15:50 Chair's Summary and Closing Remarks
16.00 Networking Reception and Refreshments
16.30  Symposium Close





All Dates

  • Thursday, 14 March 2019 09:15 - 16:30

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