“Plastic packaging in Portugal represents 8 percent of waste. Each inhabitant is producing around 40.3 kg per year, above the European Union average. We need measures to reduce the consumption of plastic, because if other countries can do it, we can too”, said Joana Correia Prata, a researcher at the University of Aveiro.
The country continues to directly send "33 percent of waste to landfill", which is still "the dominant form of waste treatment in Portugal", since there is also some scrap from other forms of waste treatment, such as recycling, which end up for going to landfill.
Plastics, with “very degraded material”, which cannot be reused, or “materials that mix different types of plastic” all end up in landfill in the country.
Joana Prata admits that “a lot of regulation is needed in terms of plastic additives”, recognising that “the European Union is making an effort”, but that “it is very difficult”.
“There are many different plastics, despite the large polymer categories, each type of plastic has a mixture of additives that no one really knows because it is an industrial secret of each company. It is very difficult to reach conclusions, because the market is very big and there is a lot. But yes, the ideal would be to be able to regulate this and for everything to be recyclable”, she said.
The study “The road to sustainable use and waste management of plastics in Portugal”, also analyses the Portuguese trade balance with regard to plastics.
“Portugal imports a lot of plastics, and also exports, mostly from the European Union. This recycling and recovery of plastics, in terms of energy or material, brings many ecological and economic benefits”.
The researcher emphasises that, “if Portugal were able to recover this waste, it would be a reference at a European level”.
Portugal also has “another area in which it can be a reference”, the “production of bioplastics”.
“We have the agroforestry and marine part, we can produce bioplastics from this organic matter, and therefore also be a source of bioplastics for the European Union. If we built biorefineries and took advantage of these substances, we could also have added value for the economy”, she concluded.