In order to tackle the root causes, one needs to look at those items found on beaches and in ocean. According to Ocean Conservancy (2014), from the ten top items found on beaches only 50 per cent of those are plastics. This is clearly not all ‘single-use plastic packaging’ and not one material alone. Most of the plastic packaging that is only used once does not end up in the environment and they protect, save food and support a healthy, resource efficient lifestyle. A ban on plastic packaging will therefore not solve the marine litter problem. On the contrary, it could have a negative effect on the environment. A study carried out by Trucost showed that the environmental impact of using plastics in consumer goods and packaging is nearly four times less than using alternative materials. Plastics save far more energy and resources over a product lifecycle than are required to produce them. So, what will solve the problem? To answer this question, we need to identify the root causes to design sustainable solutions while stopping those items going into the environment.
Recently, we announced ‘Plastics 2030 – Voluntary Commitment’, a set of ambitious targets and initiatives representing the industry contribution to achieve a fully circular and resource efficient Europe. One of the key goals is to prevent plastic leakage into the environment. To do so, we will continue setting up educational projects across Member States to increase awareness on sustainable consumer behaviour, we will strengthen the industry programme to prevent pellet loss (Operation Clean Sweep®) by increasingly involve the entire value chain, including transport and logistics and we will also launch new research activities to complete knowledge gaps on the most common plastic items being littered in the marine environment, with a view to identifying suitable solutions and always keeping in mind the root causes.