HomePET Knowledge BaseNavigating Circular Economy Laws: A Global Perspective on Sustainable Legislation

Navigating Circular Economy Laws: A Global Perspective on Sustainable Legislation

Plastic waste is on the rise, and the recycled PET market is nearly maxed out.

Plastic waste is on the rise, and the recycled PET market is nearly maxed out. What's causing this imbalance, and how are governments responding? Let's delve into the realm of regulations surrounding plastic packaging and its recycling for a closer look. Join us on this exploration of the current landscape.


The United Nations' Environment Programme (UNEP) declares that our planet is engulfed in plastic pollution. We've all seen images of growing plastic landfills and oceans filled with plastic waste. Currently, the world generates a staggering 460 million tonnes of plastic annually, as per the OECD. Two decades ago, it was only half of this amount, and experts predict it will surge to 800 million tonnes in the next two decades. Notably, packaging contributes a significant 40 percent to this total.


Top-tier plastics can be efficiently channeled into a closed loop. Take the bottle-to-bottle cycle, where PET bottles get recycled into rPET bottles – this process is well-developed. The massive influx of PET bottles ending up in global landfills annually could serve as a substantial raw material source.


The markets for a circular plastic economy are struggling, with global recycled material proportions in production still below ten percent. Until recently, numerous countries exported a significant chunk of their plastic waste, primarily to Asia. However, since China implemented import restrictions in 2018, and with other nations adopting similar measures, the plastic waste problem has hit closer to home. Governments are now taking action, employing a range of tools such as taxes, subsidies, quotas, material permits, or enforceable eco-friendly design standards to curb the plastic waste influx.


To tackle the plastic crisis, governments are implementing various measures, such as:

- Implementing extended manufacturer responsibility and imposing charges on non-recyclable plastic or plastic waste. Germany's dual system serves as an illustrative example.
 Enforcing prohibitions on specific plastic items.

 Boosting recycling rates through mandatory collection quotas.

 Introducing deposit systems to enhance recycling efforts.


In Germany, a notable success story unfolds – a whopping 98 percent of deposit-required bottles get collected, and of these, 45 percent are successfully recycled into PET containers.


Governments are taking further steps by:

- Fostering markets for recycled products via mandatory quotas, ensuring a specific proportion of recycled material in the final product.

- Cutting down on plastic volume through the implementation of binding reuse quotas.


Let's consider the EU as an illustration - making strides toward a circular economy for plastics.


The EU has made substantial progress in regulations compared to the global stage. In 2018, it pledged to a groundbreaking plastic strategy, aligning with the goal of transitioning to a carbon-neutral circular economy by 2050 as outlined in the Green Deal. Key legislations include the Single-Use Plastics Directive and the Packaging Directive, marking significant steps in this transformative journey.


EU laws are at the forefront of global efforts.


In 2018, the commitment to a carbon-neutral circular economy by 2050 was solidified through the Green Deal, with pivotal legislations like the Single-Use Plastics Directive and the Packaging Directive leading the charge.


The Single-Use Plastics Directive in the EU brings significant regulations into play, including:

- Prohibition of specific single-use items like straws and disposable crockery.

- Enforcement of a mandatory collection quota for single-use plastic bottles, aiming for up to 90 percent by 2029.

- Requirement for a minimum share of recycled material, set at 25 percent for PET bottles from 2025, escalating to 30 percent for all plastic bottles by 2030.

Introduction of caps fixed to the bottle for added sustainability measures.


The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) outlines crucial regulations, including:

- Setting essential requirements for packaging to ensure it's designed with environmental considerations in mind.

- Establishing recovery and recycling targets for packaging waste to promote sustainable practices.

- Encouraging member states to implement measures to prevent the generation of packaging waste.

- Promoting the use of eco-friendly packaging materials and minimizing hazardous substances in packaging.

In essence, the PPWD plays a pivotal role in shaping a more sustainable and responsible approach to packaging within the EU.


Numerous countries are adopting the EU's regulatory standards, with Spain as a notable example. Starting mid-2023, plastic rings around can packs will be prohibited on Spanish islands. Furthermore, from January 1, 2023, Spain has implemented a plastic tax on non-recycled plastic packaging used for protecting or wrapping goods, signaling a commitment to sustainable practices.

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