AMSTERDAM (ICIS)--The European polyethylene terephthalate (PET) industry needs to give serious consideration to an EU plastics tax becoming a reality, according to an executive with US-based beverage maker Coca-Cola on Wednesday.
Vice-president of European public affairs at Coca-Cola European Partners Hans Van Bochove said at the ICIS PET Value Chain conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands, that he was aware that the union was looking into a plastic tax.
After the EU’s Plastic Strategy launch in January, the bloc’s vice president Jyrki Katainen confirmed that a potential tax on plastic had been explored and Bochove warned that the execution of such a plan would need to be carefully watched.
“I know for a fact that this is not just a test balloon. The [European] Commission is truly looking into this…that idea of a EU-wide plastic tax is there and it is not that easily going away,” Bochove said.
“The question is on what level are you going to implement that tax. Is that going to be all the way to [Thai PET producer] Indorama [Ventures]?”
“We have to be very, very mindful of how that comes together. Because, again, regardless of what you believe about the idea, it is about the execution,” he added.
The executive spoke about the potential of the development of legislation driving a mandatory amount of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) in packaging. Coca-Cola itself is not pushing for such legislation, he added..
“I do see it as a part of future legislation as I do believe that for the vast majority of industry this [push to use recycled content] is not going to be voluntary if there are additional costs," he said.
Recently the way UK records data related to plastics packaging waste came under renewed fire after a report on the topic was published by consultancy Eunomia.
One factor that was specifically criticised by the UK-based firm was the government’s producer responsibility guidance, which Bochove used as an example of recycling infrastructure in Europe that needs to change to increase recycling rates.
“Some companies [announced recycling targets] regardless of the consequences,” he said.
“We know the consequences, that is also why we are so destined, so determined to make a change to the collection/recycling infrastructure... that is one of the solutions to come at a better parity between recycled content and virgin,” Bochove added.
Coca-Cola itself announced in January that it aimed to produce bottles that average 50% recycled material and to recycle the equivalent of 100% of its packaging by 2030.
At the same time French food and drinks major Danone said that it would make all its Evian-branded water bottles from 100% recycled plastics by 2025.
“Even though there are some companies that claim 100%, it is impossible to do that for the entire industry. You can do that for a brand…but [they would] all compete for the same quality material and it cannot be done on a global scale,” he said.
“So you will have to feed in virgin [PET] feedstock…until we have cracked some kind of chemical recycling that is commercially feasible.”
“People are trying to get the headline first and it is nothing more than the headline as it is not a sustainable competitive advantage. But it does jeopardize collaboration within the supply chain,” he added.
The ICIS PET Value Chain conference ran from 13-14 March in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
(recasts clarifying current coca Cola stance on mandatory R-PET quotas in seventh paragraph)
Focus article by Pavle Popovic
Pictured: A man searches a landfill for useful and recylable plastics in China (Source:Imaginechina/REX/Shutterstock)