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EC Considers Additional Restriction on Single-Use Plastics

Plastic containers floating in water

The European Commission (EC) is preparing a legislative proposal for a Directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. This follows other waste management measures taken in the European Union. These include a 50% recycling target for plastic packaging waste by 2025 and 55% by 2030, and the goal to ensure that all plastic packaging is either reusable or recyclable by 2030. (See the article, Europe Adopts Strategy for Plastics, for more information.)

Speaking at the Polytalk Conference on April 27, 2018, in Malta, Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, noted that the EC is now working on a legislative proposal for single-use plastic items often found on beaches that is expected to be adopted by the Commission by the summer of 2018. “We will start by renewing efforts to stop plastic waste like bottles, cutlery and cups and lids from entering our environment in the first place,” he said.

A draft of the legislative proposal and the explanatory memorandum were obtained by Politico (see April 27, 2018, article). The draft proposal, as currently worded, would implement a number of restrictions or bans on plastic food-contact articles. These include:

  • A ban on single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks), plates, straws, and beverage stirrers
  • A requirement for Member States to take measures to achieve a significant reduction of single-use plastic cups for beverages and food containers
  • A requirement for Member States to establish producer responsibility schemes for cups, cup lids, beverage containers, food containers, flexible packets and wrappers for food that is to be consumed immediately, and lightweight bags.

The proposal further specifies that producer responsibility scheme for single-use plastic bottles must ensure that 90% by weight are collected. In addition, the producers will be required to cover the cost of recycling and clean-up.

The draft proposal for a Directive is still at an early stage in the legislative process and is not yet broadly publicly available in official sources.  However, it proposes to introduce far reaching changes that would impact upon the regulation of plastic food contact materials and articles in the EU, and would need to be closely monitored. 

Member States would have two years from the publication of the draft Directive in the Official Journal of the European Union to transpose it into national legislation based on the current wording of the proposal.