Need for an EU plastic recycling system!

the initiative works to implement a EU-wide plastic bottle recycling system

Help clean up the world by signing the new European Citizens’ Initiative “#ReturnthePlastics” which demands an EU recycling system for PET-plastic-bottles.

Written by Lea Gormsen // 23.11.2021

Why is EU recycling system for plastic bottles needed?

We find plastic everywhere we go because it is a versatile product that is preferred over other materials in many processes. Plastic is made up of materials that make it possible to mould, press, extrude or harden it into different forms. The fact that plastic is lightweight, flexible and cheap to produce has led to the widespread use of it.[1] It experienced its first boom in production after the Second World War. Afterwards, the plastic production exploded, so it is no surprise that we find remains of plastic packaging everywhere we go.

Plastic transformed the modern world and we would not be able to recognize it without it. The disadvantage of plastic is the fact that it is made from fossil fuels and takes hundreds of years to decompose. This means it both increases the level of CO2 in the atmosphere and pollutes nature. But at the same time plastic single handedly changed the medical industry for the better and has saved millions of lives by now – which shows: plastic both has positive and negative aspects.[2]

One of the negative aspects of plastic is that 40% of the plastic produced each year is single use. This means that after being used once, for example as a plastic bottle, the bottle is thrown away. The products are used for minutes or hours and then have to decompose for hundreds of years. Therefore, it is so important to reuse and implement EU-wide recycling system for plastic.[3]

initiative wants to save plastic pollution around EU

Signature collection for the Initiative

The initiative “ReturnthePlastics” was registered on the 13th of August 2021 and the signature collection phase has just started on the 19th of November.

The ECI mechanism was created to make it possible for citizens to get involved in EU policymaking. For an initiative to be successful, the organizers need to collect 1 million valid signatures from EU citizens of at least 7 different EU countries. If this is the case, the European Commission needs to consider the claims and present an answer.

The initiative aims at achieving that plastic recycling in EU will be handled responsibly in the future. In the initiative description the organizers explain that plastic which is not recycled ends up in landfills or waterways. This means that plastic piles the size of countries float around in the oceans. “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is an example of this containing 80.000 tons of plastic floating in a pile between California and Hawaii. The size of the plastic patch is 3 times the size of France at the current moment.[4] The organizers also point to the fact that overtime the plastic in the water will break down to smaller pieces and finally turn into microplastic. The microplastics will be eaten by fish in the sea and plastic will ultimately end up on our plates.

No more floating bottles!

This initiative has decided to make sure that plastic bottles will not be floating around Europe’s waters and lands. The initiative proposes to make an EU-wide plastic bottle recycling system, as is already the case in several countries. Reverse vending machines would be implemented in supermarkets throughout the EU. These machines will issue 15 cents for the return of an empty plastic bottle. The money can afterwards be used in the supermarkets.[5]

Each plastic bottle that is eligible for return will have a special logo, so the consumer is aware that the bottle is a part of this system and that it costs 15 extra euro cents to purchase this bottle.

Multiple member states in the EU already have this system up and running effectively. Germany and Denmark are two examples that have functioning systems. It is a good start, but the whole EU needs to implement this system to close the loop of materials being used for plastic bottles.[6] The recycling of PET-bottles will solve multiple issues at once. The need for raw materials will decrease, it will use less energy and plastic bottles will (hopefully) not be thrown away as easily.

What now?

If you agree and want to support this initiative and the recycling system they propose, you can help raise awareness by:

  • Signing the initiative here
  • Check out the initiative’s website here
  • Share the initiative on your social media and with friends and family
  • Start by sorting your trash today – even before the system is implemented in your country. You can check out this website on how to sort your trash
  • Visit our website to find any news on this and other initiatives


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European Citizens’ Initiative

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The ocean clean up

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