Ambitious EU legislation to reduce the impact of plastics

11 Dec Ambitious EU legislation to reduce the impact of plastics

Single used plastics

The European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy was adopted on January 16, 2018. As announced in the strategy, the European Commission put forward a legislative proposal seeking to address the issue of marine litter from plastics. In October 2018 The European Parliament adopted amendments to the proposal and the matter has now been referred to the committee responsible for interinstitutional negotiations with member states.


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 focuses on the top 10 single-use plastics items found on beaches as well as on fishing gear. What constitutes as a ‘single-use plastic product’ is a product that is made wholly or partly from plastic and that is conceived, designed or placed on the market to be used only once over a short time span before it is discarded. This means that cardboard or paper packaging with plastic coating or composites made partly from plastic will be treated as single-use plastic products under the directive.


Summary of the proposed measures:

  • measures intended to reduce consumption (for food containers; and cups for beverages);
  • market restrictions (on cotton bud sticks; cutlery, plates, stirrers and straws; sticks for balloons);
  • product design requirements (for beverage containers and bottles, whose caps and lids would need to remain attached to the bottle);
  • marking requirements (for balloons; wet wipes; and sanitary towels);
  • extended produced responsibility requirements (for food containers; cups for beverages; balloons; packets and wrappers; beverage containers and bottles; tobacco product filters; wet wipes; lightweight plastic carrier bags; and fishing gear);
  • separate collection objective (for beverage bottles, set at 90 %);
  • awareness raising measures (for food containers; cups for beverages; balloons; packets and wrappers; beverage containers and bottles; tobacco product filters; wet wipes; sanitary towels; lightweight plastic carrier bags; and fishing gear).


According to European Commission estimates, the proposed Directive would, by 2030, reduce marine litter on EU beaches by about a quarter; avoid the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent; avoid environmental damages which would cost the equivalent of €22 billion; and save consumers a projected €6.5 billion.



Impacts to the packaging industry and to the producers of packed consumer goods


It is clear that the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy including the legislative proposal addressing the issue of marine litter from plastics will have an effect on the entire plastics value chain and the industry. It will require close cooperation, innovation and investments to meet the challenges created by the legislations and further more to utilize the opportunities created by this new era of plastics.


Amerplast has kept a close eye on the European level and local developments around plastics and we have developed our operations and product portfolio in-line with the EU ambitions. We are constantly ensuring that we will meet the new requirements, creating competitive and innovative new sustainable packaging solutions and supporting our customers to recognize and to meet the changing requirements. We believe that what is good for the environment is good for business and we will continue our journey transforming the flexible packaging industry into an environmentally sound business.


Main implications of the adopted proposal


The European Strategy for Plastics itself already has an effect to the industry due the recycling targets for plastic packaging (50% by 2025 and 55% by 2030) together with the target for all plastic packaging to be designed to be recyclable or reusable by 2030. The new legislation will increase the pressure for the industry introducing bans, further reduction targets and requirements. The future will show how these will be implemented on a national level when the interinstitutional negotiations begin.


Main amendments to the Commission proposal adopted in plenary concern the following points:

  • Marketing restrictions: the aim of the proposed Directive is to introduce an EU-wide ban on single-use plastic products whenever alternatives exist. Products such as plates, cutlery, cotton buds, straws or sticks to be attached to balloons shall be prohibited. Members added to the list of products banned in the EU products containing oxo-degradable plastics, such as bags and packaging, and single-use food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene.
  • Consumption reduction: the consumption of several other items, for which no alternative exists, will have to be reduced by Member States in an ambitious and sustained manner by 2025. This includes single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes or food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams.
  • Member states shall draft national plans to encourage the use of products suitable for multiple use, as well as re-using and recycling. The Commission may issue recommendations on those plans. National quantitative reduction targets shall also be established.
  • Bottles: Member States shall ensure that by 2025 beverage bottles (listed in Part C of the proposal Annex) may be placed on the market only if they are made from at least 35 % recycled content and are recyclable. By 1 January 2022, the Commission shall adopt implementing acts laying down the methodology for the calculation of recycled content.
  • Marking requirements: Member States shall ensure that each sales packaging of the single-use plastic products, placed on the market bears a conspicuous, clearly legible and indelible marking, both on packaging containing several units and on each separate unit, when packaged individually, informing consumers of the recyclability of the product.
  • Consumers shall be informed of the presence in the product of chemicals of concern, such as hazardous metals, phthalates, PFAS, bisphenols, as well as endocrine disruptors.
  • Costs: with regard to the costs to clean up litter, Member States shall ensure that the financial contributions paid by the producers are established in a proportionate way and take into account the costs of clean-up of individual products or product groups. The costs shall be limited to activities undertaken on a regular basis by public authorities or on their behalf, which shall include litter clean-up activities aiming to meet relevant obligations concerning waste prevention and environmental protection under legislative acts of the Union.
  • The Commission shall develop guidelines, in consultation with Member States, on the distribution of the costs to clean up litter covered by the extended producer responsibility schemes.


Source: European parliament/ Legislative Observatory