They have promised to make 60% of all plastic packaging recyclable or reuseable by 2030 with the goal of 100% by 2040.
They have also pledged - as part of a voluntary commitment - to do more to stop plastic waste ending up in the environment and find alternative raw materials to oil and gas.
As part of Plastics 2030, PlasticsEurope has established three European platforms – Vinyls Circular Solutions, Styrenics Circular Solutions, and Polyolefin Circular Economy Platform – to bring together organisations that can help bring about change.
An independent panel made up of representatives from academia, the European Commission and the European Parliament will regularly monitor and report on progress.
For INEOS, one of the world’s leading producers of plastic, it is not waiting to show the world what it is already doing – and what it intends to do.
“The public often think we don’t care about plastic pollution, but we care massively,” said Tom Crotty, INEOS’ Director of Corporate Affairs. “Plastic waste in the ocean is totally unacceptable. But plastic is not evil. Plastic waste is evil. And that needs to be said. Maybe it is now time to fight fire with fire. We have got to get out there and tell people what we are doing.”
As public outrage over marine litter continues to grow, so too does INEOS’ frustration that its voice often goes unheard, its message of hope drowned out by those calling for all plastic to be banned.
“It can be really frustrating when politicians make cheap political points because even among plastic producers, plastic pollution is the only topic of conversation at the moment,” said Tom.
He believes the targets – set out and agreed by plastics producers in Europe – are all achievable.
“That’s not to say that they aren’t challenging,” he said. “But there is no point in setting easy targets. It also hopefully shows that we are concerned about doing the right thing. This is the industry talking. This isn’t being forced upon us by governments.”
INEOS O&P, INOVYN, and INEOS Styrolution are already working on solutions to the problems set out in Plastics 2030.
But they are also going beyond this to make its own pledges that will be achieved by 2025.
“INEOS is really good at finding innovative solutions to the big issues,” said Tom. “As an organisation we are able to make decisions very quickly because we don’t have to go through hundreds of committees.”
The company has already met one of the targets. All of INEOS’ plastic can now be recycled thanks to a decision it made several years ago to remove certain additives.
For INEOS, the most difficult areas will be those over which it has no control – what happens to the plastic once people have finished with it.
“Plastic waste is bad when it is badly handled,” he said. And in parts of Asia, it currently is. “That is where our focus needs to be,” said Tom. “We are looking at how we can support industry initiatives to help prevent waste from reaching the rivers. Even if we just put fences around these landfill sites as a temporary measure, it would help.”
Another part of the industries goal is to reduce marine litter, one of today’s biggest environmental challenges.
INEOS is already signed up to the global plastic industry’s Operation Clean Sweep®, an international initiative to stop the pellet loss into the world’s oceans and rivers.
Recently it has worked across the entire industry and supply chain at the Port of Antwerp where there was a co-ordinated clean up across the port.
The project has made an impact and other EU ports are expected to follow Antwerp’s lead. With plastic waste now firmly at the top of the political agenda, Tom hopes the value of plastic to society will not be forgotten in the rush to ban certain plastics.
“Plastic is everywhere and we are massively reliant on it,” he said. “It is in cars, computers, phones, clothes, medical equipment, and planes.”
Plastic pipes, he said, had transformed some of the poorest parts of the world, bringing them clean water along pipes that were cheap and easy to install. “To those people, plastic has been a godsend,” he said.