‘Mass balance approach’ blocks ambitions for elevated recycled content in plastics

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Rather, they urge the EC to establish a transparent, ambitious, and circular ‘chain of custody’ method. Signed by several civil world organisations and recycling sector members, the letter is normally a direct objection to the latest calls of key sector players (including ‘chemical substance recycling’ actors) for a ‘mass balance procedure’. This technique could enable the liberal allocation of recycled feedstock to the ultimate merchandise of their choosing, no matter its true content. Used, a plastic product could possibly be sold as ‘fully recycled’ while containing simply really small fractions of genuine recycled content beneath the ‘mass balance approach’.

The joint letter recommends that the EC base its method on ten specific conditions to avoid greenwashing practices and regulate how recycled content is determined, guaranteeing a circular chain of custody:

  • Aim for the highest possible amount of recycled content and segregate recycled feedstock from virgin feedstock found in the supply chain
  • Use ‘batch level’ mass equilibrium to determine recycled articles when segregation isn't feasible
  • Don't allow for the trading of recycled content material within a credit system
  • Evenly allocate the recycled content to output goods where mass balance can be used
  • Ensure good physical and chemical traceability of recycled content
  • Avoid converting recycled content material into theoretical ‘currencies’
  • When determining recycled content, just include post-consumer waste rather than pre-consumer waste
  • Set strict eligibility criteria for plastic waste used for ‘chemical substance recycling’
  • Account for the entire life cycle of products in the chain of custody model
  • Ensure full transparency towards consumers
These criteria are further explained on the “Determining recycled quite happy with the ‘mass balance approach - 10 advice for development of strategies and standards” joint policy briefing, published the other day by Zero Waste materials Europe, ECOS, and the Rethink Plastic alliance (RPa).

Shanar Tabrizi, Chemical substance Recycling and Plastic material to Petrol Officer at Zero Waste materials Europe, reported: “The EU targets for recycled content material could be a large driver for recycling - that is, unless we introduce loose options for reporting the show of recycled content on plastics which remove such incentives, mislead consumers and risk damaging the credibility of the recycling industry. What we call for is plastic transparency, reasonable and square.”

Mathilde Crépy, Senior Program Supervisor at ECOS, said: “The Single-Use Plastic material Directive was a genuine breakthrough for environmental policy. But with the ‘mass balance approach’, we wide open the door to the imaginative accounting of plastic content material. If we allow makers to take up with the numbers in their recycled content promises our planet will suffer the consequence. We can’t afford it staying watered down by a flexible chain of custody enabling imaginative accounting of recycled content material.”

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