Launched by the European Union, the “Circular Plastics Alliance” (CPA) aims to bring 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics into the EU market alone by 2025. Over 170 organisations (industry, academia and public authorities) have joined this challenging initiative dedicated to plastics. Versalis, Eni’s chemical company, is among the signatories of the declaration of the alliance, which aims to increase recycling to achieve a truly circular EU plastics economy.
A few facts and a brief history
From 1950 to 2015, 8.3 billion tons of virgin plastic was produced globally, of which 6.3 Gtonnes became waste. Of these, approximately 80% (5 Gtonnes) was disposed of in landfills or dispersed in the environment and only a minimal amount was sent for recycling (9%).
The transition to a circular economy has become a topic of debate on an international scale and the European Union has taken on a leading role in the creation of this new model. This ambition is supported by an evolution in regulations that has been going on for some years now. For example, the “Plastics Strategy”, published in January 2018, outlined the EU’s action plan to increase sustainability in the sector and pursue the transition to a more circular economy. One of the planned actions of the strategy is the Single-Use Plastics Directive, which comes into force in 2021 and will limit the use of single-use plastic products.
Over the years, significant steps have been taken in the field of plastics recovery and recycling in Europe. In fact, from 2006 to 2018, the collection of post-consumer plastic waste in Europe grew by 20%. From this, the share destined for recycling doubled: recycling has become the first option for generating value from this waste. Recourse to landfill fell by 44%.
The “Circular Plastics Alliance” promotes proper management of plastic waste. It comes together to make the world “plastic waste-free” rather than “plastic-free”, given the recognised value of this material as a precious resource.
By joining the CPA, Versalis is contributing to this ambitious goal and formalising its voluntary pledges regarding the circular economy, in three areas and in line with the corporate strategy: eco-design, development of recycling technologies and the use of alternative feedstocks, such as raw materials from renewable sources or secondary raw materials.
In the eco-design area, Versalis is committed to at least half of the packaging used for transporting products on pallets and containers, containing up to 50% recycled materials.
In the area of recycling and using alternative feedstocks, the company plans to increase its production capacity for the new Versalis Revive® product line, based on polyethylene and polystyrene, which contains up to 70% mechanically recycled plastic.
To strengthen the recovery and recycling of all types of mechanically non-recyclable plastics, Versalis is committed to the development of a new chemical recycling technology that transforms mixed plastic waste into raw material. This will then be used to produce new virgin polymers with characteristics identical to those that come from fossil fuel sources and that are suitable for any application, including ones that require high-quality performance, such as food packaging.
Versalis makes insulating panels for buildings in expandable polystyrene obtained from the reuse of plastics
Some points of interest
Inevitably, the most industrialised countries are the largest producers of plastic waste. It is therefore necessary to develop innovative technologies that are capable of recycling all types of this waste.
As revealed by the Institute for Agro-Food Market Services (ISMEA), sales of plastic bottles containing mineral water has more than doubled in the past 10 years. In Italy alone, it has gone from 5 billion in 2009 to 10 billion in 2019, almost one percentage point more than last year. This figure confirms that it is increasingly important to promote the responsible use of plastic and to ensure effective collection, selection and recycling systems in order to reintroduce it into the production cycle and give it new life.
Both Versalis and the Eni Group have put a series of interventions into practice, aimed at the conscious use of plastic by their employees. First is the “Rivending” project, a dedicated initiative for collecting coffee cups and stirrers at the refreshment areas at the San Donato Milanese offices. In collaboration with third-party companies in the supply chain and the Corepla Consortium, these are used to produce selected new raw materials, ready to feed into the Versalis plants in Mantua, for the production of expandable polystyrene, which is then used in making insulation sheets for buildings and protective packaging for appliances and furniture.
In this way, it is possible to give new and lasting life to products used in our everyday lives. This initiative demonstrates how fundamental the involvement of consumers is to ensure the success of the circular model: there is no circular economy without good waste management, which starts from the education of individual citizens.
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