Commissioned by Plastics Europe, this extensive independent report developed by SYSTEMIQ aimed to critically evaluate current progress and assess the potential of different levers to help transition towards the EU’s net zero carbon emissions and circularity goals by 2050. The conclusions will help the plastics industry to respond most effectively to the severity of the climate crisis and the challenge of plastics waste.
ReShaping Plastics provides a science-based, practical roadmap based on a similar approach and scientific methodology developed for the ground-breaking report Breaking the Plastic Wave. It explores a series of scenarios based on current publicly available market data on innovations, commitments and policies that are underway and in the pipeline. It also makes projections about how these different elements, including emerging technologies, may play out over a long time-period.
Plastics Europe welcomes the SYSTEMIQ report. They support its central finding that faster systems change is essential, that circularity is the most critical medium-term lever of the European plastics system’s transition. As the report confirms transformative change also requires a new policy framework that better incentivises investment and innovation and keep the European industry globally competitive as the EU transitions to net zero.
Plastics Europe also supports the report’s call for more intense and effective collaboration between the plastics industry, our value chain and policymakers and are exploring a package of measures to accelerate the industry’s transition.
Five essential findings from the report
- The European plastics system is already adapting to address the challenges of climate change mitigation and circularity, but not yet fast enough to align with the goals of the Circular Plastics Alliance, European Green Deal, or the Paris and Glasgow climate agreements.
- There is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to significantly reduce waste disposal and GHG emissions. Upstream and downstream solutions are complementary and are most effective when deployed together.
- Ambitious adoption of circular economy approaches in the plastics value chain – i.e. applying upstream and downstream solutions together – can drive significant reductions in GHG emissions and waste disposal in the next decade and beyond.
- In addition to these proven circular economy approaches, there are multiple less mature pathways to develop and deploy innovative technologies and approaches that further decrease GHG emissions and tend to decouple plastic from fossil fuel feedstocks.
- The next three to five years are a critical window for action. Long technology maturity cycles and CAPEX lock-in for large infrastructure investments mean that the decisions taken in the early 2020s will determine whether or not the European plastics system will achieve a circular economy and net zero GHG emissions by 2050.