Plastics contribute in many ways to sustainable use of resources.
Plastics save energy and CO2 emissions during the use phase. If we were to substitute all plastics in all applications with the prevailing mix of alternative materials, and look from a lifecycle perspective, then 2, 4million additional tonnes of crude oil would be required every year.
The corresponding greenhouse gas emissions are equivalent to 3 0% of the EU25 Kyoto target for 2 000-2012 . Plastics contribute to waste minimisation by offering more and more resource-effective solutions, including lower energy consumption during production, a reduction in the plastics material needed to do a particular job and less waste of the packaged goods, whether it is food or water or a computer. Examples include ever-lighter bottles for water, soft drinks or detergents or thinner film for packaging.
Plastics are reused in a number of areas. Plastics soft drink bottles are reused in deposit systems in a number of Member States, many of us reuse the carrier bag for a variety of needs, and plastics trays used in supermarkets offer a clean, robust and cost-effective way of moving vegetables, bread or fish from producer to customer.
The recycling of plastics is increasing year by year. In addition to the well known applications such as bottles and industrial packaging film, new important developments are ongoing, like the Recovinyl initiative under the Vinyl2010 programme of the PVC industry (covering pipes, window frames, roofing membranes, and flooring).
Another stream which is explored in an number of Member States is the "mixed packaging plastics" This important development must continue and we must drive towards realising the full potential of existing recycling streams as well as opening up new eco-efficient streams for recycling.
However even after including these growing applications there will be residual streams which are not appropriate to mechanically recycle in an eco-efficient way.
For these streams plastics offer an additional recovery option - energy recovery. As long as we use fossil fuels for energy production, plastics will offer an additional value to society as plastics enable many vital applications during the lifecycle of these hydrocarbon molecules on their journey from oil well to energy source.
Landfill or disposal must be minimised as it wastes a valuable resource and contributes to greenhouse gas formation.