Policy approaches to incentivise sustainable plastic design

Plastics are an important material in the economy but present a challenge for waste management, resource efficiency and the environment. Low rates of recycling and high rates of environmental leakage represent key sustainability challenges for plastics as well as product designers and producers. The chemical composition of plastics, including their additives, create physical and toxicological barriers to ‘closing the loop’ on the material, and creates risks such as low quality secondary materials or ecological exposure to hazardous chemicals. A range of policy instruments can be applied to improve the sustainability of plastics, including regulations, market-based instruments, information and voluntary tools. The report reviews the current use of instruments in each of these categories, provides a number of good practice examples, such as product taxes and charges, eco-design standards, extended producer responsibility and environmental product labels, as well as discussing opportunities for their future applications.

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