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EU adopts most ambitious measures on single use plastics

Date: 
27 Mar 2019

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EU

 On March 27, the European Parliament approved a new law banning single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws and cotton buds sticks. 560 MEPs voted in favour of the agreement with EU ministers, 35 against and 28 abstained. This means the following products will be banned in the EU by 2021:

  • Single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks)
  • Single-use plastic plates
  • Plastic straws
  • Cotton bud sticks made of plastic
  • Plastic balloon sticks
  • Oxo-degradable plastics and food containers and expanded polystyrene cups

New recycling target and more responsibility for producers

Member states will have 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 agreement also strengthens the application of the polluter pays principle, in particular for tobacco, by introducing extended responsibility for producers. This new regime will also apply to fishing gear, to ensure that manufacturers, and not fishermen, bear the costs of collecting nets lost at sea. The legislation finally stipulates that labelling on the negative environmental impact of throwing cigarettes with plastic filters in the street should be mandatory, as well as for other products such as plastic cups, wet wipes and sanitary napkins.

Lead MEP Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE) said: “This legislation will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22 billion - the estimated cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030. Europe now has a legislative model to defend and promote at international level, given the global nature of the issue of marine pollution involving plastics. This is essential for the planet.”

The European Commission has welcomed the adoption by the European Parliament yesterday afternoon of the ambitious measures it had earlier proposed to tackle marine litter coming from the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on European beaches, as well as abandoned fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics. Following the vote, first Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas. We got this, we can do this. Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world.” Vice-President Jyrki Katainen added: “Once implemented, the new rules will not only prevent plastic pollution, but also make the European Union the world leader in a more sustainable plastic policy.” Commissioner Karmenu Vella concluded: “After the favourable vote by the Parliament today, our main task will be to ensure that these ambitious measures are quickly implemented in practice, which will be common work for public authorities, producers and consumers alike.”

EESC Member Maria Nikolopolou also warmly welcomes the SUP directive: "This set of measures will for sure contribute to improving the conditions of the oceans, the beaches and the marine life. And since all stakeholders have started taking steps towards the right direction, lets speed up the pace in order to achieve the rest of the UN Sustainable Developement Goals, for the sake of the the people and the planet."

Following formal adoption and publuication in the official journal, EU Member States will  have two years to transpose the legislation into their national law.