08 December 2019 Business

European Commission promises to clean up Europe's economy

The incoming European Commission is planning measures that will force change on pollution, plastics and how businesses, print included, will operate.

Heatset web, large flexo and gravure printers will be faced with new emissions limits as the incoming EU Commission puts reduction of atmospheric pollution at the head of its priorities.

The Commission is on schedule to present a new law within 100 days that will set new limits on VOC emissions. This will result in new limit values for large heatset, gravure and flexo printers next year to be applicable in 2024.

The new Commission has already signalled that titanium dioxide will be reclassified as a hazardous material when inhaled as air born powder or in mist or spray form. This is unlikely to affect printers directly, but if other industries begin to phase out use of the white pigment, printing ink and coatings manufacturers will be forced to reconsider how they use it.

However, ink and coatings manufacturers will have to cope with restrictions on micro plastics. Polymers and dispersions used in some inks and varnishes will fall under the proposed definition of micro plastics, but when used properly and are fully cured, present no risk to users. European printing ink association Eupia has issued a statement declaring: “No plastic microparticles are released from the solid film which is formed during drying of the ink or varnish.”

Plastics are also in the forefront, with amendments to the single use plastics directive reportedly under consideration. This will target the use of plastic in packaging, pushing for single rather than multi polymer materials that can be recycled. The previous Commission had committed to ensuring that all plastic packaging will be recyclable by 2030. Promoting plastic packaging will be a key measure with fiscal measures not ruled out, according to Intergraf, the association representing Europe’s print organisations in Brussels.

Gravure printers will be watching regulations around chromium trioxide which faces reclassification.

The proposals are part of the effort to decarbonise the European economy. The current target is to reduce carbon emissions to 40% by 2030. This is expected to be raised to at least 50% by 2030 and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Whatever the UK’s status with regard to membership of the European Union, it will need to take these limits into account and products that are shipped to EU members will have to comply with the new regulations, while inks and coatings manufactured within the European Community will, by default, adhere to the regulations.

By Gareth Ward

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The incoming European Commission is set on tightening environmental regulations to improve air quality and increase the recyclability of plastics, aiming to exceed previously agreed targets for carbon footprints.

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