The New Single-Use Plastics Directive
According to The European Parliament, plastics production is now 20 times more than what it was during the 1960s. Single-use plastics are disastrous for our oceans and its inhabitants. As of 27th March 2019, the European Commission has adopted new rules on single–use plastics to decrease marine litter. The EU has approved a ban on throwaway plastic products, taking the ban one step closer to the reality of pollution free oceans. The Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in support of a ban on single-use plastics to reduce pollution from the waste items like certain plastic products in waterbodies and fields.
The rules on Single-Use Plastic items address the ten most found items on EU beaches placing Europe in lead against the global fight to curb marine pollution. These rules are part of the EU Plastics Strategy which is the first ever strategy on plastics, adopted in January 2018 across Europe. It has been adopted as a part of the transition towards a more circular economy. The EU Plastics Strategy adopts a vision to have all plastic packaging placed on the EU market as reusable or recyclable by 2030. The Single-Use Plastics Directive adopted by the European Parliament last Wednesday, is a vital element of the Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan, which was adopted in 2015 to boost Europe’s transition towards a circular economy, which in turn would enhance global competitiveness, promote sustainable economic growth and generate new employment opportunities.
The Single-Use Plastics Directive concentrates on marine litter with the help of the following measures:
- A ban on selected single-use plastic products such as cutlery, cotton bud sticks, plates, straws, stirrers, plastic food containers, etc. will be applied from 2021. Marketing, distribution or consumption of products made of polystyrene cups and beverage containers will be prohibited.
- Furthermore, all products made of oxo-degradable plastic will be banned as well. Oxo-degradable plastics fragment into smaller plastic particles over time and there is no evidence that these fragments are fully biodegradable.
- Certain product design requirements have also been included in the Directive. From 2024, Beverage containers that have plastic lids or caps will be placed on the market only if their lids or caps remain attached to the container during its usage period.
- The Directive requires tampons, wet wipes, sanitary towels and domestic wipes to have marking explaining the appropriate waste handling options. For example, wet wipes packaging must inform consumers of the presence of plastic in the wipes and the damage caused to the environment if they are not disposed of in the correct manner.
- Extended Producer Responsibility schemes will be applied to products such as tobacco filters, lightweight plastic carrier bags, wrappers and fishing gear. By December 2024, producers must cover the cost of collection, transport, treatment and clean-up of waste from these products.
- A 90% collection and recycling target for plastic bottles by 2029 (77% by 2025) and the introduction of design requirements to connect caps to bottles, as well as targets to incorporate 25% of recycled plastic in PET bottles from 2025 and 30% in all plastic bottles as from 2030.
- The new measures include a requirement that manufacturers pay for waste management and clean-up of several single-use plastic items, including cigarette butts and fishing gear.
The Directive will follow a similar approach to the 2015 Plastic Bags Directive, which brought about a rapid shift in consumer behaviour. Post implementation, the new measures should bring about both environmental and economic benefits, such as:
– avoiding the emission of 3.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent;
– avoiding environmental damages which would cost the equivalent of €22 billion by 2030;
– saving consumers, a projected €6.5 billion.
The proposal will help us move on from single-use plastics to the multiple use of better designed products, more innovation and a cleaner environment. Following the approval by the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers will now finalise the formal adoption. This will then be followed by the publication of the texts in the Official Journal of the Union. The EU Member States will then have two years to transpose the legislation into their national and local law.