The Commission’s plan for plastics
In 2018, the Commission adopted the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.
The strategy is part of a wider plan to develop a circular economy and the comes from the 2015 Circular Economy Action Plan which identified plastics as a priority area.
This included proposals to modernise EU waste legislation which were agreed in December 2017.
Why the strategy is needed
Our society, economy and environment are all negatively affected by the way plastics are currently designed, produced, used and discarded.
The amount of plastic litter is growing, hurting marine ecosystems, biodiversity and potentially human health.
The strategy pursues an ambitious approach for plastic packaging recyclability and contains a strong response on microplastics which are a significant source of marine pollution.
Single-use plastics: towards new rules to reduce marine litter
The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have reached a provisional political agreement on new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.
Strengthening the role of science in plastics policy making
Experts from across the plastics value chain have developed policy recommendations and identified research and innovation priorities for transitioning towards a circular economy for plastics. These insights are based on evidence extracted from EU-funded projects and the wider scientific community and are included in the report A circular economy for plastics.
There are 2 opinions by the Commission’s independent Group of Chief Scientific Advisors
- Environmental and health risks of microplastics makes recommendations on how the EU, together with other global policy actors, should respond to microplastic pollution based on scientific knowledge and insights
- Biodegradablity of plastics in the open environment provides recommendations to assess which specific applications of biodegradable plastics in the open environment offer potential environmental benefits over conventional plastics
Finally there is a review of literature on microplastics in the foodchain by the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC).
Funding for plastics research and innovation
The Commission has identified a range of measures to implement the plastics strategy. Several are relevant for research and innovation.
For the period 2018-2020, the remaining years of Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation framework programme, about €100 million has been allocated to projects directly related to the plastics strategy.
This funding comes on top of the €250 million already spent on plastics-related projects through Horizon 2020.
Beyond 2020, work is being carried out to further develop plastics-related systemic innovation into business models, products and materials for the next framework programme, Horizon Europe.
How to find plastics funding in Horizon 2020.
Ocean Plastics Lab exhibition
The Ocean Plastics Lab is an exhibition that showcases the contribution of science in understanding and combating the problem of plastics in the ocean.
The Commission co-organised with the German ministry the exhibition in many different locations.
- Lisbon, Portugal 14 – 26 May 2019
- Berlin, Germany 21 – 29 October 2018
- Ottawa, Canada 30 July – 12 August 2018
- Washington, United States 4 – 17 June 2018
- Brussels, Belgium 9 – 19 April 2018
- Paris, France 4 – 17 November 2017
- Turin, Italy 27 September – 7 October 2017
At the exhibition there were presentations of 15 EU-funded research projects related to marine plastic, microplastic and pollution.
Examples of successful projects
The EU-funded MultiCycle project has developed a pilot plant that can recycle complex plastic materials, helping the EU move towards a circular economy,
- Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
A circular economy for plastics - Insights from research and innovation to inform policy and funding decisions
Policy report on research and innovation insights about a circular economy for plastics
- Directorate-General for Environment
A European strategy for plastics in a Circular Economy
From the 2018 Circular Economy package
- News article