The plastic litter- and waste management crisis is clearly explained in this infographic by The Guardian.
Solutions are being developed to clean the oceans from plastics, such as the OceanCleanup Project, but these are corrective solutions – if it will function at all. And even then, it can only cleanup (a part of) the plastics that are drifting at the surface.
In my view, the key possible solution is in the transition towards bioplastics. Depending on the application – single use vs sustainable use – these plastics should either be truly biodegradable or recycleable. In case of recycleability, products should be designed such that disassembly becomes economically viable at the end of a products’ life cycle, in order to stimulate the circular economy.
This strategy can also help decrease the dependency on fossil fuels. Therefore, the European Commission insists to improve eco-design of plastic products, increase re-use and plastic waste recycling rates with more and better-quality polymers to help boosting the market for recycled plastics and insist in the use of new bio-based solutions. The EU, through its Circular Economy Action Plan launched in January 2018, is focused on stimulating Europe’s transition to a circular economy that will boost competitiveness, foster sustainable economic growth and result in the creation of new jobs.
The European waste hierarchy defines five steps included in the Waste Framework Directive: