Joint efforts against plastics in the environment

One year 'Zero Pellet Loss' initiative in Austria

© Umweltbundesamt/S. Enzinger f.l.t.r. K.Kienzl, A. Stern, K. Vella, A. Rupprechter, G.Rebernig

Vienna, 7 June 2016 - 'Plastics and micro plastics do not belong in the natural environment', Austria's Federal Minister Andrä Rupprechter and EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella agree. On 3 June the Minister and the Environment Commissioner visited the Borealis plant in Schwechat to inform themselves about technical innovations aimed at the reduction of plastic in the environment. 'We need to find joint and Europe-wide solutions to this challenge. I am proud to say that Austria is a pioneer in this field and I am glad that our cooperation with the industry in the framework of the Zero Pellet Loss initiative is bearing fruit already', Rupprechter emphasised.

 

Plastics are also at the top of the agenda of the EU Circular Economy Package. This package provides a central approach to optimising the life cycle of plastics and their recycling. '80% of marine litter is made up of plastic. One of the best motivators to reduce this amount is to turn waste into an economic opportunity. In essence, this is what we call the Circular Economy. The Zero Pellet Loss initiative, promoted by Minister Rupprechter, is an example of this approach. The European Commission is working hard to ensure that similar Circular Economy solutions will become the norm all across the EU', Commissioner Karmenu Vella said.

'Zero Pellet Loss' initiative: one year on

 

In order to reduce plastic in the environment, Minister Andrä Rupprechter sealed a 'Zero Pellet Loss' pact with the Technical Association of the Austrian Chemical Industry in spring 2015. The pact comprises a ten-point plan to reduce the discharge of plastic granules into the environment. Every year an average load of 41 tonnes of plastics are transported via the Danube; most of it coming from diffuse sources. Since the start of the initiative the number of Austrian enterprises that participate in it has been continously growing - and the share of lost plastic particles has significantly shrunk. According to a 2016 implementation report the losses from the total production and processing volume in Austria, which amounts to approximately 2 million tonnes of plastic, have meanwhile been reduced from 4.9 kilogrammes per day to less than 1 kilogramme per day.

Borealis: striving for best available technology

 

Within the framework of the 'Zero Pellet Loss' initiative Borealis is working on technical innovations and further measures. Their efficiency is checked by the Environment Agency Austria through measurements in wastewater. By installing better filters in wastewater treatment plants, defining more precise treatment guidelines, and through staff member training, risks in the field of 'pellet loss' have been reduced and eliminated. Further improvement measures are currently being implemented. 'Borealis has firmly enshrined the protection of waters and landscapes in its entrepreneurial philosophy. Borealis is working together with independent scientific institutions to set new standards, in the field of water protection, and striving to make use of 'best available technologies'', explains Alfred Stern, member of the executive board of Borealis and responsible for the polyolefines sector.

Environment Agency Austria promotes European cooperation

 

'The Environment Agency Austria checks the efficiency of measures, examines the amount of plastic generated by Borealis and supports the enterprise on the path towards becoming a pioneer in Europe', explains Karl Kienzl, deputy managing director of the Environment Agency Austria. Estimates show that millions of tonnes of plastic reach the oceans every year; more than 80 % of the plastic debris comes from the mainland, most of it via rivers. In order to reduce plastics in the Environment, a Europe-wide procedure and a stakeholder dialogue are essential. The Environment Agency Austria, being an independent expert institution, provides valuable inputs for this purpose and is working within the framework of the network of European environmental agencies on standardised measuring methods, comparable European data, and on the identification of the most effective leverage tools that can be used to reduce plastic pollution in the environment.

 

Further information:
Inge Zechmann, Environment Agency Austria Press Office, Tel.: +43 (0)1 31304 5413