European Commission steps forward to cut down on single-use plastics – but it’s just the beginning
The European Commission has taken a leap forward in tackling plastic pollution, with new laws to reduce throwaway single-use plastics.
Speaking on behalf of Rethink Plastic , Stephane Arditi of the European Environmental Bureau said:
“Today’s proposal by the European Commission signals an important step forward in the race to reduce plastic pollution. There is no reason why we shouldn’t ban unnecessary single-use plastic items when durable and toxic free alternatives already exist.”
Rethink Plastic is an alliance of leading European NGOs bringing together policy and technical expertise to reduce plastic pollution
The proposal, which is designed to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, and in particular the marine environment, sets a number of different policy measures to tackle these problematic single-use products, from bans and reduction efforts, to labelling and extended producer responsibility schemes .
However, the legislation fails to set specific EU-wide reduction targets for food containers and beverage cups, with a promise to look into this possibility only after a lengthy six years after transposition (circa 2027). This could result in countries claiming they are taking the necessary steps as long as any reduction is achieved, regardless of how small.
The same time period is also given for a review of the list of products the legislation addresses, with the possibility to expand it. This is vital to shorten to three years after transposition rather than six.
Sarah Baulch of the Environmental Investigation Agency, also a member of Rethink Plastic, said:
“Given the urgency and scale of the problem, the lack of specific reduction targets for Member States is alarming. We call on the European Parliament and EU Ministers to put in place such targets and set a shorter review period to ensure an effective and swift move beyond single-use plastics.”
The NGOs also said that the draft fails to address the presence of hazardous substances used in single-use plastic products, which can easily leak into the environment and in our food chain. Elise Vitali, a chemicals expert at the EEB, said:
“Our daily exposure to toxic chemicals used in food packaging and bottles can lead to chronic diseases. A comprehensive strategy must tackle the effects of these single-use plastics on people’s health.”
The European Parliament and the Council of EU ministers will discuss and amend the legislative proposal in the coming months.
 The European Environmental Bureau is a member of Rethink Plastic alongside ClientEarth, ECOS, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth Europe, Seas at Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe and Zero Waste Europe.
 The range of legislative measures includes:
- A ban on single-use plastic straws, cutlery and plates, cotton buds and balloon sticks
- A requirement to achieve ‘significant’ reductions in the consumption of plastic food containers and cups within 6 years, through measures such as national consumption reduction targets, minimum reusable packaging targets, or ensuring such items are not provided free of charge
- A 2025 target of 90% separate collection of plastic bottles, to be achieved through Extended Producer Responsibility schemes or the implementation of deposit return schemes
- Detailed labelling on sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons informing citizens of the negative environmental impact of inappropriate disposal
- The introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for waste fishing gear, cigarette butts, beverage containers including lids and caps, food containers, lightweight plastic bags, sanitary towels and wet wipes amongst others.