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Single-Use Plastics Directive is Published in the Official Journal of the EU

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The Single-Use Plastics Directive — Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment—was published in the Official Journal of the European Union (click here to view). It will impact plastic food-contact materials and articles through, among others, a ban on certain single-use plastics, increased collection goals for plastic packaging, extended producer responsibility schemes, and design requirements for beverage containers.

By way of background, in January 2018, the European Commission (EC) published a Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. The Strategy called for measures at EU and Member State (MS) level to reduce “the unnecessary generation of plastic waste, especially waste from single-use items.”  Further, the Strategy also confirmed the legislative work on the initiative on single-use plastics at the EU level leading to the publication of the draft Directive in May 2018. The EC stated in its 2019 work program published on October 23 2018, that ‘[s]peedy agreement on the proposal on single-use plastics is necessary.” Thereafter, consensus between the European Parliament and the Council on the wording of the draft text was reached relatively quickly.

According to the preamble, the Single-Use Plastics Directive “promotes circular approaches that give priority to sustainable and non-toxic re-usable products and re-use systems rather than to single-use products, aiming first and foremost to reduce the quantity of waste generated.” (See the articles, EU Publishes Updated Draft of Single-Use Plastics Directive and Plastic Packaging in a Circular Economy, for more background information on the Single-Use Plastics Directive and the circular economy more generally.)

MSs will have until July 3, 2021, to enact laws, regulations, and administrative provisions necessary to comply with most of the provisions of the Directive, although longer deadlines apply to certain provisions. For example, MSs have until July 3, 2024 to apply measures to ensure that certain single-use beverage containers that have caps and lids made on plastic may be only placed on the market if the caps and lids remain attached to the containers during the products’ intended use storage.  

The Directive also includes deadlines for the EC. These include, for instance, a July 3, 2020 deadline to publish guidelines, in consultation with Member States, which would include examples of what is to be considered a single-use plastic product for the purposes of the Directive.  Importantly, the EC prepared a statement to express concerns about the feasibility of complying with several deadlines, including this one.