The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Problem of Plastic Waste in the EU

Bernadeta Baran
European Research Studies Journal, Volume XXIV, Special Issue 3, 894-904, 2021
DOI: 10.35808/ersj/2531


Purpose: This article aims to compile and analyze initial data on the impact of the pandemic on the amount of plastic waste generated and the plastic waste management system in the EU. Design/Methodology/Approach: Methods used in this study are statistical and intuitive. To a great extent, the considerations are based on recent literature (the time of pandemic) and secondary data. Statistics are delivered from reports and databases: Eurostat, PlasticsEurope (associations representing plastics producers), The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (a charity working with business, government & academia to build a framework for a CE), Research and Markets Reports. Findings: One of the EU's most important objectives is closing the circular economy, i.a., for plastic waste. The COVID pandemic has posed new challenges to achieve it (1) extra pressure: more plastic waste, mainly single-use which are mostly not recyclable (leading to inappropriate management strategies, including mobile incineration, direct landfills, and local burnings); (2) the implications of the lockdowns for the recycling industry: loss of valuable secondary raw material due to shutting down/temporarily cease operating in many converting plants and the record low prices of virgin plastics resulting from the falling oil prices on world markets. Practical Implementation: This article is a compilation and an analysis of preliminary data on the impact of the pandemic on the amount of plastic waste generated and on the recycling industry in the EU. This issue is important both because of the magnitude of the plastic waste problem by itself (in the pre-pandemic time) and the ongoing implementation of the circular economy in the EU (despite the pandemic). Originality/Value: The plastic waste surge's economic and environmental impacts due to pandemic have not yet been thoroughly analyzed, as the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing (its implications are sure to be felt for a long time to come).

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