World’s top polluters holding pen on new EU standards for recycled plastics?

In a letter sent today, ECOS, Zero Waste Europe and the Rethink Plastic alliance ask the European Commission to stop the process and go back to the drawing board. 

The Circular Plastic Alliance, a group of 300 organisations including some of the worst plastic polluters, has been given unprecedented treatment in the development of new standards for ‘plastics recycling and recycled plastics’.

– Standard-setting rules in Europe establish that all types of interested parties must be represented in the process, including the voices of environmentalists, consumers, workers, and SMEs.
– In a letter sent today, ECOS, Zero Waste Europe and the Rethink Plastic alliance ask the European Commission to stop the process and go back to the drawing board. 

ECOS, Zero Waste Europe and the Rethink Plastic alliance campaigners have sent a letter [1] to Commissioners Thierry Breton and Virginijus Sinkevicius asking them to stop the development of a Standardisation Request on ‘plastics recycling and recycled plastics’. This is the first stage for new standards on the matter. Campaigners question the opaque role of the industrial Circular Plastics Alliance (CPA) in the preparation phase of the draft Standardisation Request. This is one of the first steps in the development of any new Commission harmonised standards, in which the Commission mandates European Standardisation Organisations CEN and CENELEC, in charge of doing the work. The CPA has been intensively consulted by the European Commission as EU officials consider this Alliance ‘a relevant stakeholder initiative’ in the drafting and preparation of the draft Standardisation Request, NGOs state. Civil society organisations and European Standardisation Organisations were consulted only at a later stage.The document circulated by the Commission for consultation was titled ‘SR CPA Decision’. This is a telling example of the preferential treatment industry is being given in the process, NGOs say. The Standards Vademecum [2], which sets the rules and processes for standards-making in Europe, states clearly that consultations must be held in parallel with all relevant parties, including civil society organisations. Giving preference to industry goes against the rules.The Circular Plastics Alliance is composed of 300 organisations, including some of the world’s top plastic polluters [3] [4], such as The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Unilever, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Mondelēz International, Danone, and Mars, Inc. Many of the CPA organisations are not even listed in the European Transparency Register.The new standards on ‘plastics recycling and recycled plastics’ will set technical rules and criteria on aspects such as:plastic packaging recyclability,design-for-recycling guidelines for various products (from plastic packaging to construction and automotive products, as well as electronic and electrical equipment),quality requirements for application of plastic recyclates [5] in products.

The full letter can be read here.

Fanny Rateau, Programme Manager, ECOS – Environmental Coalition on Standards: ‘The European Commission has outsourced to companies essential decisions on how standards intervene in curbing plastic pollution – decisions that will tip the scales as to whether or not EU laws on plastics are effective.The Commission seems to have ‘forgotten’ that they ought to be the author of standardisation requests. A consultation process follows to ensure that all stakeholders, including civil society, get a say, on an equal footing. The Commission must now correct this and go back to the drawing board’.
 
Janek Vähk, Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Programme Coordinator, Zero Waste Europe: ‘The lack of proper consultation from a broad spectrum of stakeholders means that the environmental ambition of the draft proposal is exceptionally low. This is a missed opportunity to support the European Green Deal and bring circular thinking to the plastics sector’. 
Notes to editors: 
 
[1] ECOS, ZWE and RPa letter to European Commission: Request to cease development of Standardisation Request on ‘plastics recycling and recycled plastics’  – https://ecostandard.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/20220201_ECOS-RPa-ZWE-letter_SReq-process-issues_Plastics-recycling.pdf
[2] Vademecum on European standardisation – https://ec.europa.eu/growth/single-market/european-standards/vademecum-european-standardisation_en
[3] Break Free From Plastic – Branded: Brand Audit Report 2021 https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/BRAND-AUDIT-REPORT-2021.pdf
[4] Circular Plastics Alliance, list of members –  https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/48014[5] The term recyclate is used to describe a raw material transported to a waste recycling facility or a material recovering plant for processing into a newly formed material or product  (source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/recyclate)
 
Contact points at ECOS: Fanny Rateau, Programme Manager at ECOS – fanny.rateau@ecostandard.org
Ivo Cabral, Press Manager at ECOS  ivo.cabral@ecostandard.org 

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