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Rethink Plastic Alliance et al launch policy brief on plastic-to-fuels ahead of EC meeting on revised Renewable Energy Directive 

“The current crisis is creating an opportunity for real change. Yet, plastic-to-fuel is encouraging reliance on our current linear system – convincing consumers that this waste can be “recycled” when in fact it is getting burned. That’s not the idea of a cycle.”

Ahead of a European Commission-led stakeholder meeting on the revised Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) on 18th-19th June, environmental group Rethink Plastic Alliance has led the launch of a policy brief entitled “Recycled Carbon Fuels in the Renewable Energy Directive”.

The environmental group has also worked with NGOs Zero Waste Europe (@zerowasteeurope), and Bellona Europa (@BellonaEuropa) on the brief.

The publication of this brief comes as a response to some industry attempts to include plastic as a feedstock as part of the revised Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) under the label of “recycled carbon fuels”.

The revised Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) establishes a common framework for the promotion of energy from renewable sources in the electricity, heating and cooling, and transport sectors for the 2021-2030 period. As a part of the transport target, member states may choose to include “recycled carbon fuels.”

The climate performance of these fuels, along with other environmental impacts, will be evaluated under a delegated act by 2021. The European Commission is holding a stakeholder meeting to discuss whether such fuels meet a minimum greenhouse gas emission savings threshold and if such fuels can be counted towards environmental transport targets.

Converting fossil plastics to fuels is sometimes marketed as a part of the solution to the environmental and waste problems the plastic industry is currently facing.

In a statement, Rethink Plastic Alliance (@RethinkPlastic) maintained that its policy briefing highlights the main concerns regarding fuels derived from non-renewable waste streams in the REDII.

According to Rethink Plastic Alliance, its brief case study shows that “the production of these fuels could have harmful effects on both climate change mitigation and circular economy measures”.

“We need to start focusing on effective and scalable climate change solutions to transition to net-zero by 2050 – and plastic fuels don’t fit the bill. Burning plastic made from oil and gas at the back of the car will not help mitigate, but will exacerbate climate change.’’ said Ana Šerdoner, Industry Policy Manager at Bellona Europa and author of the brief.

She added: ‘’Claiming that turning fossil plastic into fossil fuels is a solution for climate change is part of a growing greenwashing trend in climate accounting. It’s very simple for industry to announce support for net zero climate goals when they simultaneously attempt to dismantle basic accounting of the climate damaging emissions they and their products cause.”

Bellona Europa, Zero Waste Europe and Rethink Plastic Alliance urge member states not to include these fuels into their transport targets. As well, due to the inclusion of these fuels in the REDII, we urge the European Commission to develop a set of robust environmental criteria that ensure the impacts of these fuels are accounted for properly.

“The current crisis is creating an opportunity for real change. Yet, plastic-to-fuel is encouraging reliance on our current linear system – convincing consumers that this waste can be “recycled” when in fact it is getting burned. That’s not the idea of a cycle.” said Janek Vahk, Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Coordinator at Zero Waste Europe.


If you were interested in this bioeconomy story, you may also be interested in the ones below.

Read: European Commission urged to support plastic recyclers in post-covid recovery plans

Read: Conventional plastic industry is using ‘Coronavirus as an excuse’ to revive old habits

Read: Ineos to produce bio-based PVC from pulp production by-product.

Read: Neste and Remondis link up to develop chemical recycling of plastic waste.

Read: Ineos Styrolution and Agilyx advance US chemical recycling facility.

Read: Braskem starts trials on chemical recycling of plastic waste.

Read: UPM to invest in new biorefinery to produce wood-based biochemicals.

Read: Dow teams up with UPM to produce bio-based plastics.

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