EU Council adopts directive banning single-use plastics

EU – Council of the European Union has adopted a new directive banning the use of certain single-use plastics most attributed to marine pollution.

The new measures proposed by the commission introduces restrictions on certain single-use plastic products in line with EU’s existing waste legislation and guidelines to promote a circular economy.

The products include plates, cutlery, straws and earbuds commonly found European beaches, as well as abandoned fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics.

The directive puts stricter rules on the use of such products and packaging, usually throwaway plastics which are among the top 10 most frequently found items polluting European beaches.

Under the new rules, single-use plastic plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks and cotton buds will be banned by 2021, with a goal to reduce plastic waste.

Single-use plastic products are made wholly or partly of plastic and are typically intended to be used just once or for a short period of time before they are thrown away.

“Plastic straws or forks are little objects but can make great, long-lasting damages.

“The single-use plastics legislation will address 70% of marine litters items, avoiding environmental damage that would otherwise cost €22 billion by 2030,” said Commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, Karmenu Vella.

“The EU has delivered fast and effectively on a proposal the Commission presented just one year ago.

“All in all, it’s European legislation at its best – responding to popular demand, benefiting the planet as well its inhabitants, and genuinely leading the world.”

The new rules will introduce:
  • A ban on selected single-use products such as cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for balloons, as well as cups, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene
  • Measures to reduce consumption of food containers and beverage cups made of plastic
  • Extended Producer Responsibility schemes covering the cost to clean-up litter, applied to products such as tobacco filters and fishing gear.
  • A 90% separate collection target for plastic bottles by 2029 (77% by 2025) and the introduction of design requirements to connect caps to bottles
  • Target to incorporate 25% of recycled plastic in PET bottles as from 2025 and 30% in all plastic bottles as from 2030.

The EU member states have pledged to achieve a 90% collection target for plastic bottles by 2029, and plastic bottles will have to contain at least 25% of recycled content by 2025 and 30% by 2030.

The new rules ban the use of certain throwaway plastic products for which alternatives exist.

For other products, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; on design and labelling requirements; and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers.

The Directive follows a similar approach to the successful 2015 Plastic Bags Directive, which brought about a rapid shift in consumer behavior.

It targets both environmental and economic benefits including: avoid the emission of 3.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent; avoid environmental damages which would cost the equivalent of €22 billion (US$24 billion) by 2030; and save consumers a projected €6.5 billion (US$7 billion).

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