Support in environmental & waste disposal legislation
Ecomatters supported Global-C, a manufacturer and provider of inflight products for airlines across the globe, in screening the relevant legislation regarding the use of single use plastics and waste regulations, with a particular focus on the EU’s Single-use Plastic Directive. Additionally, we provided an overview regarding polymer materials which are more desirable than others from an environmental perspective.
Aim of the project
As a part of the EU Plastic Strategy, in 2019 the European Parliament created the Single-use Plastic Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/904) to tackle the problem of marine litter coming from single-use plastic products. Together with fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics, this is the litter that is most often found on European beaches.
We have written an article about what the Directive entails, you can read it here.
For Global-C we looked into the potential effects of the Single-use Plastic Directive on their products in order to anticipate on the increasing number of questions from their clients regarding environmental legislation and performance of their products.
What did Ecomatters do?
To increase the understanding on the EU Single-use Plastic Directive of Global-C, Ecomatters performed the following key activities:
- Screening of current and upcoming regulations regarding single-use plastics
Ecomatters assessed for which types of products and/or polymers the Directive applies (food packaging / cups / cutlery etc.), with a specific focus on Global-C products.
- Product materials and recycling potential
We provided an overview of the most common used conventional polymers (e.g. PE, PP, PET) as well as increasingly popular alternative bio-based polymers such as PLA and Bio-BPS (Polybutylene succinate). To support Global-C in their strategic decision making, these plastics were screened for use under the Single-use Plastic Directive, their recycling potential, and occurrence on other regulatory or industry-based guidance lists.
- Waste Management
As a supplier of inflight (food packaging) products, the specific waste handling regulations at various international airports is an additional complicating factor for Global-C. Food contaminated materials are often incinerated on-site by default. Ecomatters provided an overview of the status of the actual waste processing situation and guidelines at three selected airports. This information gives valuable insight during strategic decision making when Global-C has to comply with different, and in some cases conflicting, sets of legislation.
- Implications for three Global-C plastic products under the Single-use Plastic Directive
Ecomatters conducted a short review of the implications of the three previously mentioned aspects (screening of regulations, recycling potential of materials, waste management) for three specific existing cabin products of Global-C: a Polybutylene succinate cup, a crystallised PET tray and a laminated cardboard cup. Among other things, we reviewed whether or not they fall under the directive, what their overall environmental performance was and what a suitable alternative would be.
In July 2020 the European Commission provides more specific guidelines regarding the products falling under the Directive. However, based on the available data already published by the European Commission it was already apparent that there was a clear impact of the Single-use Plastic Directive on the product range of Global-C.
In addition, although bio-based or biodegradable plastics can have environmental advantages compared to conventional polymers, they are not necessarily a solution from a waste perspective. Many bio-polymers do not have established recycling schemes yet and do not degrade readily in the environment. Thus, a product being labelled as biodegradable doesn’t necessarily mean that it is compostable outside an industrial composting facility. As such, most bio-based and biodegradable polymers are within the scope of the Single-use Plastics Directive. Currently, re-usable products would therefore be the preferred option from a waste reduction perspective.
The three products we reviewed, including the laminated paper cup, fall under the Directive. For all three items, the use should be reduced where possible. Although not exempt from the requirements under the Single-use Plastic directive, bio-based products may still be a preferred alternative over fossil-based plastics when re-use or recycling is not feasible as a results of aviation specific waste handling rules.
To sum up all our findings we developed an infographic that Global-C could further spread to their clients and network. This infographic covers the Single-use Plastic Directive as well as how the Directive could impact the airline industry and which steps Global-C aims to make. This infographic was used to show clients that Global-C is aware of the current developments in the field of single-use plastics and that Global-C is prepared to make changes when necessary.
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