New rules to reduce single-use plastics

New rules to reduce single-use plastics

Tue, 05.06.2018 - 10:17

New rules to reduce single-use plastics
Focused and proportionate proposals target worst culprits

The Commission has proposed new rules to reduce the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. Together these items constitute 70% of all marine litter.

The new rules are tailored to the different products covered. The Commission proposes to ban those products for which there are affordable cleaner alternatives, while for others the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption or other measures, like design and labelling requirements and waste management obligations for producers.

First Vice-President Timmermans said: "Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food. Today's proposals will reduce single-use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures."

Vice-President Katainen added: "Plastic can be fantastic, but we need to use it more responsibly. 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."

Last week's proposal is one of the deliverables of the European strategy for plastics presented in January, which aims to make all plastic packaging on the EU market reusable or recyclable by 2030. Plastics make up over 80% of marine litter and plastic residues are found in marine species including fish and shellfish, meaning they also enter the human food chain.

Ban on six products

The proposed Directive (link below) introduces a ban on plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons. All of them will have to be made of sustainable materials. Single-use drink containers will only be allowed if their caps and lids remain attached.

For food containers and drink cups, the proposal introduces consumption reduction targets. EU countries can achieve this by setting national reduction targets, making alternative products available at the point of sale or ensuring that there is a charge for single-use products. 

The new rules also set obligations for producers of food containers, packets and wrappers, drink containers and cups, tobacco products with filters, wet wipes, balloons and lightweight plastic bags. Producers will help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness-raising measures. The industry will receive incentives to develop less polluting alternatives.

90% collection target for bottles

Furthermore, Member States will have to collect 90% of single-use plastic drink bottles by 2025 - for example, through deposit refund schemes.

Certain products like sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons will require clear labelling indicating how waste should be disposed, the presence of plastics in the products and their negative environmental impact.

In the case of fishing gear that contains plastic - which accounts for 27% of all beach litter - the Commission proposes producer responsibility schemes. Producers will be required to cover the costs of waste collection from port reception facilities and its transport and treatment.

© EU

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Finally, EU countries will have to raise consumer awareness about the negative impact of single-use plastics and the available options for re-use and waste management. The Commission will also launch an EU-wide awareness-raising campaign to put the spotlight on consumer choice and individual people's role in fighting plastic pollution and marine litter. It will start on 5 June, to mark World Environment Day.

Reducing litter by half

The proposal seeks to reduce by more than half the littering caused by the 10 single-use plastic items covered by the rules. In addition, these measures will avoid the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030.

Replacing the most common single-use plastic items with innovative alternatives could create around 30,000 local jobs. The proposed EU-wide rules should also give European companies a competitive edge in the global market for sustainable products, thanks to first-mover advantage.

Through Horizon 2020, the EU has already provided more than €250 million to finance R&D in areas of direct relevance to the plastics strategy. Between now and 2020, €100 million more will be devoted to financing priority actions under this strategy.

These new rules build on the success of previous initiatives, such as the reduction of single-use plastic bags brought in by EU legislation in 2014, and the newly revised EU waste legislation, which includes targets for recycling plastics.

The public consultation carried out in preparation of the proposal showed high support for EU action. 95% of respondents agreed that action to tackle single-use plastics is necessary and urgent, and 79% believed that measures should be taken at EU level to be effective.

·Proposed single-use plastics Directive