The British tabloid newspapers have rushed to condemn the EU’s plans to introduce a Plastic Day in Europe, claiming it would be a waste of money at a time of austerity. The Express questions the validity of this new initiative, reporting that Europe has spent £167m on 300 waste and recycling initiatives since 1992.
So what about the positives of introducing a Plastic Day? Certainly, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik is convinced of the benefits, explaining that the cost of failing to act on waste far outweighs the cost of a recycling campaign.
“Plastic pollution poisons people and costs Europe, not least the UK, vast amounts of money. Changing production and consumption patterns is becoming urgent,” he said. “We make absolutely no apology for seeking innovative ways to provide the public with information on this.”
Beyond the need to educate the public on the importance of recycling plastics, the proposed Plastic Day could also be a good opportunity to highlight how the recycling industry contributes to the European economy. The recycling and waste management sector in Europe is now worth €145bn and employs around 400,000 people.
Employment related to recycling in European countries increased by 45% between 2000 and 2007, and the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that 160,000 jobs could be created in the European recycling industry by 2020 through the widespread adoption of a circular economy.
“It’s vital that policy-makers continue to champion the cause of recycling in Europe and globally,” says Nigel Hunton, CEO, MBA Polymers. “While awareness campaigns may be met with scepticism by some, they are important tools to get people thinking about the social, environmental and economic benefits of stepping up their recycling efforts and growing the recycling sector.”