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EU cracks down on Single-Use Plastics

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

From cotton bud sticks to cutlery, new EU directive currently in force bans the use of the 10 single-use plastic products polluting EU beaches, while introducing clean-up and waste management measures for producers that could save member states €22 billion by 2030, according to EU Commissioner Vella

On 21 May, the Council of the EU adopted today the single-use plastics directive which introduces new restrictions on products and packaging to contrast environmental pollution. “Single-use plastics are not a smart economic or environmental choice, and today's proposals will help business and consumers to move towards sustainable alternatives”, stated EU Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness. The Directive builds on the EU's existing waste legislation but goes further by banning the top ten most polluting products and packaging found on European beaches:  cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for balloons, as well as cups, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene and on all products made of oxo-degradable plastic. Together, these items constitute 70% of all marine litter but they don’t necessarily need to be used, as alternative products already exist. The potential cost avoided thanks to the single-use plastics legislation? €22 billion by 2030, according to Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

In order to curb the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups, member states will also have to set national consumption reduction targets. Making alternative products available at the point of sale, or charging for single-use plastic products could contribute to reaching this goal. Member states also agreed to collect 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025 and to produce plastic bottles with at least 25% of recycled content by 2025 and 30% by 2030. “More innovative and sustainable ways of production will bring new opportunities for European businesses, increasing their competitiveness, growth and job creation” continued Katainen. Restrictive measures are also set for producers of polluting items, such as tobacco filters, packets of crisps, and fishing gears. They will have to help covering the costs of waste management and clean-up measures. Certain products will require standardised labelling with clear indications on how waste should be disposed, the negative environmental impact of the product, and the presence of plastics in the item. The new obligations will be implemented between January 2023 and 31 December 2024, depending on the product.  At the same time, the industry will receive incentives to develop less polluting alternatives.

The Directive entered into force last Monday, 10 June, and now Member States will have two years to transpose the European legislation into their national law.


Discover how CSR Europe is tackling plastic issues in the Circular Economy Web series