EU environment ministers call for protecting seas from plastics

EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella (R) and Polish Minister of Environment Henryk Kowalczyk during European Environment Ministers Council meeting in Brussels, Belgium, March 5, 2018.

Circular economy can help fulfill Paris Agreement obligations


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European Union Environment Ministers on March 5 exchanged views on the package presented by the Commission in January, which aims at delivering on the circular economy action plan.

The ministers agreed that they welcomed the presentation of a new EU plastics strategy, highlighting the need to move forward as it aims to improve how plastics are used and recycled, the Council said in a press release.

“We need to protect our environment from plastic pollution. We also need to protect our seas from microplastic particles,” Bulgaria’s Environment and Water Minister Neno Dimov said. “Today we have made a very important first step towards commitments which will enable us to deliver on our promise to protect the environment and the health of our citizens.”

Plastics have been instrumental in achieving today’s economic and social standards, the Council press release read. However, in recent years marine littering and other undesirable consequences linked to the use of plastics have been a concern for environment ministers.

All of the ministers welcomed the Commission’s package and called for the urgent implementation of concrete measures, in particular, to increase the recycling of plastics, find solutions to the widespread use of single-use plastic, and creating a holistic approach to the value chain of plastic production.

Eco-design for plastic products can play a very important role here, the Council said, calling for campaigns for raising consumer awareness, increasing the quality of recycled products through setting standards, green public procurement, and the use of the rules on Extended Producer Responsibility, similar to the one which was agreed recently in the waste package together with financial incentives and voluntary commitments by the industry.

Finally, the ministers also agreed that they are all looking forward to the Commission legislative proposal on single-use plastics.

On the interface between chemical, product, and waste legislation, many ministers highlighted the need for the availability of information on substances of concern in products. According to several speakers, the same rules should apply to the content of hazardous substances in primary and in secondary raw materials, which underlines the importance of the substitution of such substances as far as possible.

A number of speakers also addressed the need for more harmonised end-of-waste rules throughout the EU.

While many Ministers focused their interventions on the plastics strategy and the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation, as suggested by the Presidency, several speakers also highlighted the importance of another element of the package, namely the monitoring framework regarding progress towards a circular economy, the Council said.

The proposed indicators were generally welcomed, but some ministers asked to broaden the scope of the indicators to other areas than the waste sector. In this context, they stressed the substantial contribution, which the circular economy can make to the fulfilment of the climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Finally, Environment Ministers underlined the need to fully involve other Council formations in the discussions and the work on the circular economy throughout different sectors, the Council said.

The Bulgarian Presidency is planning to have Council conclusions adopted on the above topics in June.

 

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