Litter represents loss of useful and valuable material into the environment, PCEP tells Municipal Waste Europe seminar

PCEP Secretary General Venetia Spencer presented the ‘circular polyolefin economy’ perspective in a panel discussion about the results of a study into the costs of littering, carried out by Municipal Waste Europe (MWE).

Spencer told delegates at the seminar in January that although the MWE study showed significant complexities in how to tackle the problem of littering in Europe, from PCEP’s perspective, the issue was simpler.

 “Polyolefin is a fundamentally useful and valuable material and our overarching aim is to keep it in its material form as long as possible and for as many times as possible. The bulk of what PCEP aims to do is make sure that, when all of that material gets to the end of its given use, it is collected in a structured way and sent to recycling,” said Spencer.

She continued: “Litter falls outside of the ‘collected waste’ part of our activities – and that is fundamentally unacceptable. That’s a loss of material into the environment, which from our perspective is a loss of useful and valuable material that we could be able to reuse.”

In most studies looking at waste, the collection from public bins is considered by municipalities to be litter clean up. From PCEP’s perspective, however, this is a critical part of the waste collection infrastructure and Spencer highlighted the need to explore how to get that collected material sorted for recycling. 

Spencer welcomed the opportunity to discuss the issues collaboratively, in particular as the solutions would only come out of a dialogue between governments (both national and local), industry and also the various Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes all tackling the issue together.

She also noted the need for in-depth exploration of the costs of effective prevention measures to find the right balance in resourcing prevention of littering versus the costs of clean-up. Moreover, discussions about litter should be framed within the bigger picture of the significant infrastructure changes that will be required to meet the new municipal waste and plastic packaging recycling targets. The costs of litter clean up would most likely be less once these new systems are in place.

Spencer concluded by promising to work with MWE and other stakeholders in taking the discussion forward and finding solutions.

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