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The EU proposes Direcitve to reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment

The EU proposes Direcitve to reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment
by Ellen Thornton at 14:43 in Circular Economy, Emerging, Packaging

On 18th January, the Council of the European Union published the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. The objective of this proposal is to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, in particular the aquatic environment and on human health. The Directive also promotes a transition to a circular economy and applies in particular to single-use plastic products, products made from oxo-degradable plastic and to fishing gear containing plastic.

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Plastic is a useful material with high functionality and low cost, it has many essential applications, however its use in short-lived applications is growing. The material is often not designed for re-use or cost-effective recycling, resulting in a linear consumption pattern. The leakage of such plastic into the marine environment and the impact on human health have triggered the need for a specific legal framework to reduce the negative impacts and promote a circular lifecycle for plastic. For certain single-use plastic products more sustainable alternatives are not yet readily available, and the consumption of such products is expected to increase. To reverse that trend, Member States of the EU should take necessary measures, for example by setting national consumption reduction targets, to achieve an ambitious and sustained reduction in the consumption of those products, without compromising foody safety and hygiene measures.

Under the proposal, Member States are required to ensure that single-use products that have caps and lids made of plastic may only be placed on the market if the caps and lids remain attached to the container during the product's intended use stage. With regard to beverage bottles, from 2025, those which are manufactured from PET as the major component must contain at least 25% recycled plastic, calculated as an average for all PET bottles placed on the market. From 2030, beverage bottles must contain at least 30% recycled plastic.

Single-use plastic products should be marked with a clearly legible and inedible marking on their packaging or on the product itself detailing the appropriate waste management options or waste disposal means to be avoided according to the waste hierarchy. Also including in the marking requirements are the presence of plastics in the product and the resulting negative impacts of littering or inappropriate disposal of them.

Member States should ensure that Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes are established for all single-use products where producers of such products should cover the costs of:

  • Awareness raising;
  • Collection of waste of those products discarded in public collection systems, including infrastructure and its operation, and its subsequent transport and treatment;
  • Cleaning up litter of those products and its subsequent transport and treatment.

In addition, EPR schemes should be established for fishing gear containing plastic placed on the market. Member States, excluding those that are landlocked, shall set up at minimum annual collection rate of fishing gear for recycling. Producers should cover the cost of the separate collection of waste fishing gear containing plastic and the cost of awareness-raising measures for fishing gear containing plastic. The fishing gear placed on the market as well as that collected should be monitored for the purposes of establishing collection targets.

Through establishing deposit-refund schemes or separate collection targets for EPR schemes, Member States should take measures to collect separately for recycling:

  • 77% of single-use plastic products placed on the market in a given year by weight no later than 2025;
  • 90% of single-use plastic products placed on the market in a given year by weight no later than 2029.

Measures should be taken by Member States to inform consumers and to incentivise responsible consumer behaviour such as littering. Consumers should be made aware of the reusable alternatives that are available, reuse systems and waste management operations for sound waste management. Furthermore, consumers should be informed of the impact of littering and other inappropriate waste disposal of single-use products and fishing gear on the environment and in particular the marine environment.

Starting in 2022, data will have to be recorded by Member States and submitted to the Commission. Reports must cover the following:

  • The data on single-use plastic products that have been placed on the market of the Member State each year, to demonstrate the consumption reduction
  • Information on the measures taken by Member States for consumption reduction
  • The data on single-use plastic products which have been separately collected in a Member State each year, to demonstrate the attainment of the separate collection targets
  • Data on fishing gear containing plastic placed on the market and on waste fishing gear collected
  • Information on recycled content in beverage bottles to demonstrate the attainment of the targets set
  • Data on the post-consumption waste of single-use plastic products ​

The single-use plastic products referred to in this Directive include:

  • Cotton bud sticks (exemptions apply)
  • Cutlery (fork, knives, spoons, chopsticks)
  • Plates
  • straws (exemptions apply)
  • Beverage stirrers
  • Sticks to be attached to and to support balloons, except balloons for industrial or other professional uses and applications that are not distributed to consumers
  • Food containers made of expanded polystyrene​
  • Beverage containers made from expanded polystyrene
  • Cups for beverages made from expanded polystyrene
  • Sanitary towels (pads) and tampons and tampon applicators
  • Wet wipes, i.e. pre-wetted personal care and domestic wipes
  • Tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products
  • Packets and wrappers made from flexible material containing food that is intended for immediate consumption from the packet or wrapper without any further preparation
  • Beverage containers with a capacity of up to three litres
  • Lightweight plastic carrier bags

If you have any questions about the proposed Directive, please contact us to speak to one of our consultants. If you're interested in reading more articles and blogs like this one, sign up to receive our free monthly digest.​

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