Watchdog: Europe needs to be smarter in its use of plastics

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plastic pollution
Greenpeace volunteers collect plastic on a beach in Mull. Greenpeace has brought its ship the Beluga II on an expedition of scientific research around Scotland, sampling seawater for microplastics and documenting the impact of ocean plastic on some of the UK’s most precious marine life.

dpa/GNA – Members of the European Union need to become smarter when using plastics and promote more recycling, the bloc’s environmental agency said on Thursday.

Use of single-use plastics for protective equipment like masks or take-away meals has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said.

Problems related to the use of plastics include an impact on biodiversity, litter and waste as well as climate change since fossil fuels are used to make plastics.

Reduced economic activity and sharp falls in global oil prices has also made it “significantly cheaper” to produce new plastic goods instead of using recycled plastic materials, the EEA said.

“If the production and use of plastics continue to increase as projected, the plastic industry will account for 20 per cent of global oil use by 2050, an increase from today’s 7 per cent,” it said.

The Copenhagen-based agency recommended engaging policymakers, industry and consumers as part of efforts to “shift to a circular and sustainable approach” when using plastics.

Plastics have numerous uses including packaging, electronics, textiles, car components and furniture.

Textiles made from synthetic fibres, such as polyester and nylon, were another related issue, mentioned in a separate EEA report.

Estimates suggest EU consumers discard about 11 kilos of textiles per person each year, of which about two thirds consist of synthetic fibres.

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