Plastic garbage: from waste to resource 


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Vittorio Prodi 

Only 25% of plastic waste is currently recycled in the EU. This is quite alarming considering the dangerous consequences it has on the environment and human health. However, Vittorio Prodi, an Italian member of the S&D group, believes plastic waste can also have an economic value. We talked to him about the resolution on plastic waste he guided through Parliament.

Even without well-developed plastic recycling technology, would binding rules permit the EU to go beyond the current 25% recycling rate for plastic waste?


Of course not. There is a lot of work to do in terms of developing better technologies and infrastructures to separate plastic. There should be a better separation of plastic waste both before and after the collection. This clearly means taking into consideration technology development.

In the long run we should start to think about the plastic waste as a resource and not something that we just throw away. Plastic waste has an important economic value and we want to introduce appropriate measures discouraging incineration of recyclable compostable and biodegradable plastics.

To give an example, to produce a ton of virgin plastic we spend €1400, the same recycled quantity costs €900. We should privilege the use of recycled products over the virgin ones.

In this sense citizens have to be more involved in a self-sustaining economic activity. This is the core of the "circular economy".

Plastic waste is a clear and present danger: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not a myth (see our fact box on the right). Can you tell us more about this and what could be done to clean it up?


Given the density and dimension of the plastic island, it would be economically worthwhile to clean it up, to collect all that rubbish.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch 
  • A floating island composed of particles of plastic waste situated in the north of the Pacific Ocean 
  • Estimates of its size range from 700,000 square kilometres to more than 15,000,000 square kilometres (0.41% to 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean) 
  • Most debris consists of small plastic particles suspended at or just below the surface, making it impossible to detect by aircraft or satellite. 
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