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A Conversation in Brussels: Strategies to End Plastic Waste

On April 4th, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste was presented to a group of European officials, NGOs and industry representatives in Brussels at the European Parliament. The event, “Industry Strategies to End Plastic Waste,” was hosted by Mr. Karl-Heinz Florenz, a veteran Member of the House sitting on the environment committee. He has also worked on several legislative and policy dossiers related to waste and plastics during his tenure.

Throughout the morning, concrete examples to further advance circular economy models and deliver solutions to end plastic waste in Europe and around the world were presented. Mr. Carlo Pettinelli, Director for Consumer, Environmental and Health Technologies at the European Commission, showcased the Circular Economy Alliance and reiterated the EU’s commitment to promote circular business models. He noted that meaningful prevention efforts have to be carefully assessed to avoid unintended consequences. Despite the possibility of leadership changes following the European elections in the spring, Mr. Pettinelli expressed confidence that the EU plastics strategy will remain a priority for the next European Commission.

Dr. Thomas Müller-Kirschbaum, Corporate Senior Vice President of Henkel, a founding member of the Alliance, presented the Alliance’s four areas of action and answered questions from the audience about its mission, goals and commitments. The conversation served as an opportunity to explain how the Alliance will be active in the up-stream segment, with a focus on plastic waste prevention and innovative circular design models for plastic packaging.

The audience also had the opportunity to learn about the “Renew Ganga” project from Priyanka Bakaya, CEO and Founder of Renew Oceans, a non-profit organization working to reduce ocean plastic pollution where it begins—in populous, river-adjacent communities in the developing world.

The initiative, with technical and financial support from the Alliance, aims to engage local communities in India and create economic opportunities for individuals who collect plastic from rivers. Rounding out the dialogue, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation presented their new circular plastics economy initiative.

After the session, Mr. Florenz reiterated his support to the Alliance and encouraged industry to continue engaging with EU policymakers to improve the design of plastics and end plastic waste in the environment. “I would like to congratulate you on having created this Alliance. This shows that the industry has to go ahead, that it must prove to the EU that it has understood what is at stake. My recommendation is actually relatively simple. Keep it up, keep it credible, keep it transparent,” he said.

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