Time goes by fast and we are getting closer to 2030, a relevant year on the European Union’s calendar, as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDAs) should have been achieved by then. Evidently, one of the goals calls for urgent action to combat climate change and its effects. In short, to continue on the path that leads countries towards the Circular Economy.
In this context, the recycling of plastic takes on a particularly important role. This material is very versatile and presents various opportunities and benefits, due to which it is widely used, with 380 million tons produced in 2015 alone. This fact implies that the future does not lie in reducing its production, but more importantly in its recycling or, in other words, giving these plastics a second chance and new useful life. However, if the European Union (EU) is to meet its targets for 2030 it must, according to a report published by the European Court of Auditors, double its recycling capacity, Specifically, the recycling rate should be a 50% by 2025 and a 55% by 2030.
Other topics of interest: Large companies join the circular eocnomy: The Nestlé case
The EU auditors consider that “there is a considerable risk that the European Union will not meet its targets”. They also highlight the recycling figures, stating they are “far from accurate or comparable between Member States”. A different calculation method for determining recycling quotas, more accurately measured, would result in “a significant decrease in the declared recycling rate from the current figure of 42% to only 30%”.
Much of Europe’s plastic waste was previously sent to China. However, since 2018, the Asian country has banned imports of this type of waste. Another challenge facing the EU is, therefore, to tighten up the rules on exports, as almost a third of the declared recycling rate for such packaging is achieved through shipment to third countries. In this respect, it should be noted that there is also little control over traceability, which leads to an increased risk of illegal shipments and waste-related crime. The EU auditors stated that “the prosecution is much less than for other types of organised crime and the profits are substantial”.
Total Group: transformation into a zero-oil platform
In this process towards energy transition, the case of Total, the business group in the petrochemical and energy sector, must be highlighted. The company has announced that it will convert its refinery located in Grandpuits (France) into a zero-oil platform. Therefore, it will cease oil refining in the first quarter of 2021 and the storage of oil products by the end of 2023.
With this change, the platform will focus on four new industrial activities from 2024 onwards, with an investment of over EUR 500 million:
– Plastic recycling
– Production of bioplastics
– Operation of two photovoltaic solar energy plants
– Production of renewable diesel mainly for the aviation industry
The company decided to go forward with this project after performing an audit during several months on the 260 km PLIF pipeline supplying crude oil to Grandpuits. Due to a leak in the PLIF, the refinery had to close for more than five months last year. As a result of this incident, the maximum working pressure of the pipeline was reduced to ensure its operation, so that the refinery could only operate at 70% of its capacity, which threatened its long-term financial viability.