Plastics impact the environment from the moment they are produced until the moment they are discarded. An increasing number of EU initiatives are in place to address the plastics crisis, but more coordination and scaling up are needed to turn the tide.
Our online debate takes stock of the environmental impact of plastics throughout the lifecycle and explores how to address the plastics problem in the long term. A high-profile group of policymakers and key experts in the field will share their views and address questions from the online audience.
This event is organised in partnership with the European Environment Agency to mark the publication of the ‘Plastic, the circular economy and Europe’s environment — A priority for action’ report.
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From the top of Mount Everest to the deepest point of the Mariana Trench: plastics are everywhere. Plastic packaging, single-use plastic products and plastic in textiles, electronics, vehicles and buildings have important uses, but once discarded, they can spread easily and persist in our environment for a long time, posing a danger to other species, nature and ourselves. Negative effects of plastics go beyond littering and leakage. Plastics production and consumption contribute to global warming, cause air and water pollution and can lead to toxicity in humans. 7% of crude oil output is used to make plastics, and this is set to grow rapidly as consumption of plastics is expected to double in the coming two decades.
Plastics use and its negative impacts is posing an increasing headache for policymakers, industry and consumers alike. In addition, COVID-19 is hindering efforts to phase out single-use plastic products and lower oil prices are delaying the uptake of recycled plastics materials.
- What must be done to address the plastics problem in the long term? What can the Circular Economy Action Plan of the EU contribute?
- How can consumers help in making the circular plastics economy a success?
- The current plastic industry is dominated by linear business models. What needs to happen to bring circular business models to scale?
Executive Director of the European Environment Agency
Lead for the New Plastics Economy Initiative at Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Deputy Head of Cabinet of Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans
Member of the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE)
As Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, Hans Bruyninckx is responsible for providing policymakers with reliable, independent information on a wide array of environmental subjects, from urban air quality to green infrastructure. Before joining the European Environment Agency, Bruyninckx was Head of the Research Institute for Work and Society at the Catholic University of Leuven, where he also served as Head of the Political Science Department. Over the past 20 years, he has led research on environmental politics, climate change, and sustainable development on a multitude of scales, working with local governments, member states, EU institutions and international organisations.
At the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Sander Defruyt leads the New Plastics Economy Initiative, an ambitious global initiative bringing together key stakeholders to rethink and redesign the future of plastics, starting with packaging. Defruyt previously worked at McKinsey & Company, where he was part of the core team responsible for publishing the report, ‘Growth within: a circular economy vision for a competitive Europe’.
Sarah Nelen has almost 20 years of experience in European policymaking, mainly in the areas of sustainability, justice and home affairs. In her current portfolio, as Deputy Head of Cabinet of Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Nelen is primarily responsible for the coordination of the Green Deal, the EU’s growth strategy to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Prior to joining Timmermans’ Cabinet, she was Head of Unit for waste management and secondary materials, whilst negotiating the EU’s single-use plastic legislation.
Maria Spyraki is an award-winning Greek journalist and politician now serving her second mandate in the European Parliament. She actively works in numerous committees, including Industry, Research, and Energy (ITRE), Regional Development (REGI) and Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). Prior to her public service, she worked for 22 years as a journalist in Greece. She drew on this experience during her time in the Athens Press Office of the European Parliament and the office of Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas. Spyraki is a firm believer in the transformative power of research and innovation to tackle climate change.
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