EU Wants To Recycle All Plastic, How Does Croatia Feel?

Lauren Simmonds

There are about 700 companies who produce plastic in Croatia, 100 of which exclusively make PVC bags.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 23rd of January, 2018, plastic management is one of the most controversial issues that neither the European Union nor Croatia have so far managed to address.

Due to the 28 member states’ often very different interests, the EU has so far left individual national legislations to deal with the pressing issue of plastic, in spite of that move, the European Plastics Strategy was finally adopted last week, which is part of the transition to more circular economies.

As highlighted by the European Commission’s Representative Office in Croatia, this strategy will protect the environment from plastic pollution and at the same time stimulate further growth and innovation.

No disposable bags? It seems that’s the way we’re going.

“Changing the way the products are designed, produced, used and recycled in the EU has a solid business base, by taking the lead in this transition, we’ll create new opportunities for investment and open up new jobs. According to new plans, by 2030, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be suitable for recycling, the use of disposable plastic will be reduced and the intentional use of micro-plastics will be limited,” the European Commission stated. Of the millions of pieces of plastic generated in Europe annually, less than 30 percent is actually being recycled. Unrecycled plastics are a big threat, warns the EU, for the environment, especially the sea, and 85 percent of waste found washed up on beaches is plastic.

Croatian MEP Davor Škrlec pointed out that Croatia was the only country in the European Union that opposed the European Plastics Strategy because of the strong lobbying of plastic bag makers within the country, and he believes their arguments to have been deceptive.

The total export of the Croatian plastics and rubber industry amounted to 707 million euro.

Škrlec added that this is an opportunity for new innovative companies that will create recycled plastics, which will be highly sought after items on the market over the coming decades. The value of unrecycled plastics is estimated at 1.5 billion euro per year. An innovative Rijeka-based company, Mi-Plast, could benefit from the new strategy, which develops new bioplastic technologies in a number of EU projects. Filip Miketa, Research & Development Manager at Mi-Plast, pointed out that the new strategy is welcomed and that they believe that it’s finally time to do something concrete regarding this issue.

The move also brings opportunities for the economy.

“This is great news for all companies and other partners in the waste chain, which should contribute to investing in this sector and consequently, the growth of employment in both the labour and capital intensive sector. The issue of plastic bags is complex and aside from this strategy, other European Commission directives should also be taken into account, it’s expected for this issue to be resolved over the next few years, and we’re working intensively on that,” Miket said.

There is an apparent need for better cooperation between utility companies and recycling companies in plastic processing, and this could be the kick the process needs.

Croatian plasticisers gathered at the Association of Plastics and Rubber Industries (UIPG) of the Croatian Chamber of Economy (HGK) and welcomed the adoption of the strategy. The Association pointed out that the new European strategy is a challenge, but also an incentive for the industry and also for consumers.

198 thousand tons of rubber and plastic are produced annually in Croatia and a lot of energy is needed for washing dirty plastic. There is a need for cooperation between all stakeholders across the board, especially when it comes to the users of secondary raw materials. Gordana Pehnec Pavlović, secretary of UIPG, explained that the plastics industry is an infrastructure activity that recorded continuous growth not only in Croatia, but in the rest of Europe, and across the world.

“There is no activity that can function without this relatively new material that has excellent chemical properties and is very easy to form, and therefore its application is widening in all industrial branches of transport, packaging, construction products, renewable energy, medicine and more. The plastics industry in Croatia has recorded continuous growth in production and the number of employees, and it’s one of the few industrial branches that exceeded production from the prewar 1990’s era, from 125,000 tons to 198,000 tons back in 2016.

”The data for 2017 indicates further growth,” noted Pehnec Pavlović. Since the Croatian market is small, the company’s largest revenue is generated by the export of its products on foreign markets, and exports of this sector amounted to 707 million euro last year, and about 700 companies dealing directly with plastics, with more than 8500 employees, are registered in Croatia.


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