European Parliament approves single-use plastics ban

European Parliament approves single-use plastics ban

Packaging associations respond to ban of single-use plastics from EU market by 2021.

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November 16, 2018
Kelly Maile

Single-use plastics, such as straws, drink-stirrers, plates, cutlery and cotton-swab sticks, will be banned in Europe by 2021.

The European Parliament approved the ban with a vote of 571 to 53. The bill includes 10 single-use plastics that often end up in the ocean, including lightweight plastic bags and fast food containers.

“We have adopted the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics,” says Frédérique Ries, the European Parliament member who drafted the bill. “Today’s vote paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive. It is essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe, estimated at 22 billion euros by 2030.”

Under the legislation, plastics-- single-use burger boxes and food containers--that don't have available alternatives will be reduced by at least 25 percent by 2025. In addition, 90 percent of beverage bottles be collected separately and recycled. 

Parliament is currently undergoing negotiations with European ministers representing individual member states, who are expected to decide on the legislation by Dec. 16.

In May, the European Commission proposed a ban on single-use plastics after discovering 80 percent of marine litter is plastic, which is found on EU beaches and in marine species.

“Europe is only responsible for a small part of the plastic polluting our oceans,” Ries says. “It can and should, however, be a key player in finding a solution, leading at a global level, as it has done in the past in the fight against climate change. Prohibit, reduce, tax, but also replace, warn; the member states have many options to choose from. It is up to them to choose wisely and up to us to keep pushing for more. “

In response to the single-use plastics ban, Europen and 72 other associations representing a wide range of packaging materials and sectors across the packaging value chain called on the EU to ensure the “free movement of packaging and packaged goods across Europe."

In a joint statement, the organizations made recommendations to EU negotiators to ensure the directive would not "fragment the internal market.”

While acknowledging the problem of plastic pollution and committing to finding and contributing to solutions, the associations emphasized that an “EU legal framework that undermines the single market will fail to achieve the intended objectives.”

An EU directive that enables individual member states to impose a range of restrictions on packaging “risks a chilling effect" on the investment in innovation,” according to the organizations.

Unlike national restrictions on carrier bags through the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD), a single-use plastics ban “will impact not only the free movement of packaging, but the free movement of packaged goods.”

Packaging associations call on the EU to:

  • secure the primacy of the PPWD for all packaging and packaged items in case of conflict between different EU legal instruments.
  • ensure that any national measures that may be adopted as a result of the SUP directive are pre-notified to the European Commission and without prejudice to the market clause of the PPWD.
  • measures to achieve consumption reduction targets envisaged in the SUP directive cannot include unilateral national restrictions on the placing on the market of specific packaging applications.

“We fully acknowledge the need to address the plastic pollution issue and more broadly we support the objective of the EU’s circular economy strategy,” says Hans van Bochove of Coca-Cola European Partners and Europen chairman. “But we will only succeed with a clear, evidence-based, harmonized and predictable legal framework that is able to guide and secure sustainable investments. Fragmentation of the single market would seriously impede investments in innovation and the transition to a circular economy.”