Environment and sustainability – June 2024

05 July 2024

Rules and regulations
A Eunomia report (3.29 MB) published by Reloop examines the recycling performance of 48 countries and ranks Austria as the best recycling country in the world. EU: On 27 May, the Council adopted the Ecodesign Regulation, setting requirements for sustainable products, including a Digital Product Passport. On 17 June, the Council adopted its position (1.18 MB) on the Green Claims Directive on substantiating environmental claims. The Council also adopted its position (672 kB) on the revision of the Waste Framework Directive, with a focus on food and textile waste. Italy: The EC has opened an infringement procedure against Italy for failing to fully and correctly transpose the SUP directive. NL all info is in Dutch unless stated otherwise: According to the Dutch Advisory Board on Regulatory Burden, the NCPN obliging companies to incorporate a minimum share of plastic recyclate and bio-based plastics is insufficiently elaborated. The government reports that manufacturers can apply for grants to explore replacing some of the fossil plastic with recycled or bio-based plastic. According to CE Delft's Impact Assessment National Circular Economy Programme (1.1 MB), plastics is one of the packages with the potentially largest climate gains. The report was sent to the House. On 29 May 2024, The Ocean Cleanup (in English) signed an amendment (in English) updating the 2018 covenant with the State. Peru: FPF reports that the government is proposing to update the regulation on the components and labelling of plastic bags. Poland: Draft legislation on the amount of the deposit has been sent to the EC. Spain: Ecoembes claims a 71% separate collection rate for small plastic bottles (2021) but in reality only 36% is collected, according to a Eunomia report (1.48 MB) published by ZWE. US: The U.S. Plastics Pact has released its Roadmap 2.0 (19.18 MB) outlining ambitious targets toward eliminating plastic packaging waste. Minnesota: The House has re-passed HF 3911, a bill that includes EPR for packaging. Oregon: CAA has submitted its EPR-program plan (4.12 MB) to the government.

Environmental impact of plastic alternatives
Radboud University researchers studied the full impact of so-called ‘sustainable plastics’ (e.g. plastics made from biomass) and found that they are often not nearly as sustainable as they pretend to be. In an article (568 kB) published in Waste Management & Research, Politecnico di Milano researchers review LCA studies to analyse how plastic compares with alternative materials in the packaging sector. A University of Plymouth study shows that some teabags made from plastic alternatives do not degrade in soil.

Research on plastic waste
An Imperial College London study suggests that reducing plastic pollution by 5% per year would stabilise the level of microplastics in the oceans. ACS reports on a Brno University study describing swarms of microrobots that can capture microplastics and bacteria from water.
Researchers at Ruhr University Bochum have decoded a bacterial enzyme that plays a key role in styrene degradation. NIOZ researchers have discovered a fungus living in the sea that can break down polyethylene, provided it has first been exposed to UV radiation from sunlight.
Ames Lab scientists have developed a chemical conversion process that makes diesel out of plastic waste.
WUR researchers have mapped out the journey of HDPE milk bottles and examined the contamination in the packaging at each step. They found a load of different substances at the end of the sorting process. This was caused by the bale press that presses all types of PE together and none of them are completely empty and clean.

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