The seaside cleaners from the EU
Barely has the storm caused by the proposed plastics tax settled down than the European Commission has come up with another anti-plastics theme – a ban on certain disposable products made of plastic. On the other hand, the present draft directive has a certain amount of charm. In order to recognise this, however, we need to get away from two ideas. Firstly, it is not (as the commission says in its news release) primarily a case of "EU regulations to reduce marine litter", and secondly, it is not a matter of increasing the recycling rate in the EU.

What the commission actually wants to do is free our beaches of plastic litter. After all, the listed products such as disposable cups and plates, cotton swabs and drinking straws are among the items most commonly found on the beach, at any rate in terms of the numbers. In 2016, the EU commission had plastic litter collected and counted on beaches in 17 EU countries. In its press release, the commission therefore states that its proposals "target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas."

This makes the motivation of the EU commission more understandable in wanting to reduce the consumption of certain products. Yet it does not communicate the background to its plans clearly, preferring to talk about the "litter in the seas". That this should trigger a certain reaction from the plastics industry is understandable. After all, this choice of words brings us back again to the ever-recurring topic of how the plastic could have got into the sea in the first place if it did not jump in itself. Under no circumstance does our industry throw plastics into the sea, because the companies naturally want to sell their products as profitably as possible – and certainly not dump them in the oceans.

If, however, it is a question solely of the cleanness of European beaches, things look very different. Reliable figures show that around 19% of the litter found there consists of cigarette filters. Drink cups, lids and closures account for a further 21%. That the EU commission should therefore attempt to motivate member states to substitute these products so that they do not permanently contaminate our beaches is absolutely understandable. Furthermore, it puts the legislative design in the hands of the member states. After all, an EU directive only becomes valid when the member states have cast it in national laws. In any case, many more changes will be incorporated.

David Löh
KI Group editor
01.06.2018 Plasteurope.com [239858-0]
Published on 01.06.2018

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