SINGLE-USE PLASTICS
European Commission publishes regulations on disposable plastic products / Collection rate for bottles set / Sharp criticism from PlasticsEurope and EuPC
The European Commission is putting rules in place for reducing single-use plastic products, and curbing marine litter. The proposal is focused on the top ten disposable plastic items found on European beaches and in the seas, as well as abandoned or disposed fishing gear. Together, these products account for 70% of waste in Europe's marine environments. With a high proportion of microplastics in oceans resulting from fragmentation of bigger pieces of plastic, the commission's proposal is also a step to reduce the presence of microplastics.

As rumoured, the new regulations include a ban on certain disposable plastic products – see Plasteurope.com of 28.05.2018. Where affordable alternatives are available, plastic cotton swabs, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks will be banned from the market, and instead will be required to be made exclusively from "more sustainable materials." Single-use plastic beverage containers will be allowed only if their lids and caps remain attached.



The EU proposal also contains consumption reduction targets. EU member states will have to set national targets to ensure that fewer plastic food packaging and drink cups are used, as well as improve the availability of alternative products in stores and ensure that single-use plastic products are not provided free of charge.

In addition, producers will be required to help cover the costs of waste management, clean-up and awareness-raising measures. Extended producer obligations will apply to food and drinks containers (bags, film packaging, bottles and cups), tobacco products with filters, wet wipes, balloons and lightweight plastic carrier bags.

Member states will be obliged to reach a 90% collection rate for disposable plastic drink bottles by 2025. The EU commission states the example of deposit return systems.

Standardised labelling requirements for consumers
Certain products will be required to have a clear, standardised label indicating how to dispose them, what the negative environmental impacts of the product are and that the product contains plastic. This will apply to sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons. EU countries will also be obliged to raise consumer awareness about the negative impact of littering of single-use plastics and fishing gear, and about the available reuse and waste management options.

During "World Environment Day" on 5 June, the commission will also launch an EU-wide awareness-raising campaign to highlight consumers choice and people's role in combatting plastic pollution and marine litter. The commission's proposals for single-use plastics will be submitted to the European Parliament and the European Council for adoption. The commission invites other institutions to give priority to this file and present tangible results to Europeans before the May 2019 European elections.
PlasticsEurope urges EU commission to avoid shortcuts
The European association of plastic producers PlasticsEurope (Brussels / Belgium; www.plasticseurope.org) has criticised the plastic product bans. The association has instead called for improvements in national waste management infrastructure, which should be integrated with the issue of marine litter, as well as support for innovation and product design and awareness-raising campaigns. It urges the European Commission to "avoid shortcuts – plastic product bans are not the solution."

PlasticsEurope says marine litter is due to a combination of factors, with the most important being "the lack of implementation of waste-related legislation at national/regional [levels], the lack of proper waste management in some parts of the world and inappropriate littering behaviour." PlasticsEurope Deutschland managing director Rüdiger Baunemann emphasises that plastics can provide valuable solutions to urgent problems such as globalisation, increasing urbanisation and population growth.

PlasticsEurope Deutschland managing director Rüdiger Baunemann (Photo: PlasticsEurope)
Similar sentiments are coming from the German plastic packaging association Industrieverband Kunststoffverpackungen (IK, Bad Homburg; www.kunststoffverpackungen.de). In the plastics strategy, the EU commission has made all actors along the value chain accountable. "Bans on individual products completely overturn this holistic approach, which our industry wholeheartedly supports," says IK managing director Jürgen Bruder. "Instead of truly sustainable collection and recovery solutions, resource efficiency and raising customer awareness of sustainable consumption and environmentally responsible handling of unavoidable waste, we are now seeing unnecessary political gesturing." The IK believes the EU should instead support emerging countries in developing sustainable waste management structures, and enforce an EU-wide landfill ban for plastic waste.
EuPC says proposal in current form is unacceptable
European Plastics Converters (EuPC, Brussels; www.plasticsconverters.eu) says the proposal for a directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment "represents a symbolic attack on a category of poorly defined products, which leads to confusion of end users and causes fragmentation of the single market." The association added that the proposal's definition of single-use products is "misleading and does not reflect industrial classification."

The plastics processors association says the EU commission's idea of using a directive as "the most suitable legislative instrument in order to avoid a fragmented legal landscape" is not supported, especially when looking at the implementation of the EU directive on plastic carrier bags directive. EuPC notes that almost every member state has discretionally implemented the plastic bags directive, which has led to "a proliferation of rules and labelling requirements." In addition, the proposed solutions do not match the rationale of the EU plastics strategy and the voluntary commitments put forward by the plastics industry, which are backed by the European Commission itself.

"The timing is totally wrong," says EuPC managing director Alexandre Dangis. "At a moment where the EU commission is asking the industry to pledge or commit to more use of recycled plastics materials, it is also asking to ban certain recyclable products. This is a wrong signal, which will maintain the levels of landfill in the EU that we have today if European waste laws are not properly implemented."

EuPC emphasises that the EU proposal is not yet final. The current proposal is accompanied by a new public consultation that will be open to all stakeholders until 23 July 2018. EuPC will participate in this public consultation.
29.05.2018 Plasteurope.com 1004 [239845-0]
Published on 29.05.2018
EU-Kunststoffstrategie: Kommission will Einwegprodukte verbietenGerman version of this article...

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