EU to Curb or Ban Single-Use Plastics

01.06.2018 -

The European Commission has proposed new rules to fight the growing tide of plastics litter washing up on the region’s beaches and clogging the world’s seas. As throwaway plastic products as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear make up 70% of marine litter worldwide, the EU government will try to ban or curb the use of certain single-trip products while at the same time tackling issues of packaging design and labeling, along with waste management.

Specifically, plastic cotton ear swabs cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons are to be banned and replaced by products made from more sustainable materials. Single-use beverage containers made of plastic – such as takeaway coffee cups – will be allowed on the market only if their caps and lids remain attached.

Member states will also have to reduce the use of plastic food containers, principally by setting national reduction targets, thereby making alternative products available at the point of sale or ensuring that single-use plastic products are not given away free of charge. By 2025, all countries will be required to collect 90% of disposable beverage bottles, for example through deposit refund schemes.

In future, sanitary napkins, wet wipes and balloons will have to carry clear and standardized labels indicating how the products should be disposed of as well as listing their potential negative environmental impact and declaring the presence of plastics. Member states also will be obliged to raise consumers' awareness about the impact of littering as well as about the available re-use systems and waste management options.

“Together, the new rules will put Europe ahead of the curve on an issue with global implications,” the Commission said, ”creating a springboard  for European companies to develop economies of scale and be more competitive in the booming global marketplace for sustainable products.” Revising collection targets “will also help to generate the necessary volumes for a thriving plastic recycling industry,” it added. 

Plastics producers will be expected to play a greater role in the collection and treatment of waste going forward. This means covering the costs of waste management, cleanup and awareness-raising measures. Extended producer obligations will be applied to some products, including food and drinks containers (bags, film packaging, bottles and cups), cigarette filters, wet wipes, balloons and lightweight plastic carrier bags.

The Commission’s proposals build on its European Plastics Strategy announced in January of this year, which aims to tackle “wasteful and damaging plastic litter” through legislative action. The draft legislation will now go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption. To mark World Environment Day on Jun. 5, the Commission plans to launch an EU-wide awareness-raising campaign highlighting the individual’s role in combatting plastic pollution and marine litter.

While supporting the “overarching goals of the EU’s proposals, PlasticsEurope – the association representing plastic producers – is critical of the plans to ban certain products. Instead, it would like to see improvements in national waste management infrastructure. Governments should integrate the issue of marine litter in their national waste management strategies, the producers said.´