Press Release: European Commission steps forward to cut on single-use plastics

Brussels, 2 May 2018

The European Commission has taken a leap forward in tackling plastic pollution, with new laws to reduce throwaway single-use plastics.

Speaking on behalf of Rethink Plastic [1], the Environmental Investigation Agency’s Sarah Baulch said: “The Commission has awakened to the call of European citizens to address the devastating impacts of plastic pollution on our environment. Phasing out unnecessary single-use plastic applications and those for which a sustainable alternative is already available is key to ensure a responsible use of plastics.”

The proposal, which is designed to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, and in particular the marine environment, sets a number of different policy measures to tackle these problematic single-use products, from bans and reduction efforts, to marking and extended producer responsibility schemes [2].

However, the legislation fails to set specific EU-wide reduction targets for food containers and beverage cups, with a promise to look into this possibility only after a lengthy six years after transposition (circa 2027). This could result in countries claiming they are taking the necessary steps as long as any reduction is achieved, regardless of how small.

The same time period is also given for a review of the list of products the legislation addresses, with the possibility to expand it. This is vital to shorten to three years after transposition rather than six.

Baulch said: “Given the urgency and scale of the problem, the lack of specific reduction targets for Member States is alarming. We call on the European Parliament and EU Ministers to put in place such targets and set a shorter review period to ensure an effective and swift move beyond single-use plastics.”

Ioana Popescu, Plastics Programme Manager at ECOS said: The proposed directive gives the signal that disposable products are not a smart economic choice for European producers. ECOS intends to support this approach in our work on standards by helping develop design rules that tackle unnecessary plastic in products. We will also continue our (pre-)standardisation work on quality specifications for secondary raw materials to enable the safe use of recycled plastic content in new applications.

The European Parliament and the Council of EU ministers will discuss and amend the legislative proposal in the coming months.

ENDS

rethink plastics

Notes for editors:

[1] ECOS is a member of Rethink Plastic, an alliance of leading European NGOs with one common aim: a future that is free from plastic pollution. We represent thousands of active groups, supporters and citizens in every EU Member State, and we bring together policy and technical expertise from a variety of relevant fields. Other members of Rethink Plastic include: Client Earth, EEB, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth Europe, Seas at Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe and Zero Waste Europe. We are part of the global Break Free From Plastic movement, consisting of over 1000 NGOs and millions of citizens worldwide.

[2] The range of legislative measures includes:

  • A ban on single-use plastic straws, cutlery and plates, cotton buds and balloon sticks
  • A requirement to achieve ‘significant’ reductions in the consumption of plastic food containers and cups within 6 years, through measures such as national consumption reduction targets, minimum reusable packaging targets, or ensuring such items are not provided free of charge
  • A 2025 target of 90% separate collection of plastic bottles, to be achieved through Extended Producer Responsibility schemes or the implementation of deposit return schemes
  • Detailed marking on sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons informing citizens of the negative environmental impact of inappropriate disposal
  • The introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for waste fishing gear, cigarette butts, beverage containers including lids and caps, food containers, lightweight plastic bags and wet wipes amongst others.