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Single-use plastics – fighting the impact on the environment

 

SUMMARY OF:

Directive (EU) 2019/904 on reducing the impact of certain plastic products on the environment

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE DIRECTIVE?

  • It aims to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, and to promote a transition to a circular economy throughout the European Union (EU) by introducing a combination of measures tailored to the products covered by the directive, in particular, by ensuring that single-use plastic (SUP) products, for which more sustainable alternatives are available and affordable, cannot be placed on the market.
  • The directive delivers on the EU’s plastics strategy, an important element in the EU’s move towards a circular economy.

KEY POINTS

Scope

The directive applies to certain SUP products, products made from oxo-degradable plastic* and fishing gear containing plastic. SUP products are wholly or partly made of plastic, and are typically intended to be used just once or for a short period of time before they are thrown away.

Market restrictions

  • The following SUP products cannot be placed on the market:
    • cutlery (forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks);
    • plates;
    • straws and cotton bud sticks (except those used with active implantable or other medical devices);
    • beverage stirrers;
    • sticks to be attached to and to support balloons and their mechanisms, except balloons for industrial or other professional uses and applications that are not distributed to consumers;
    • food containers made of expanded polystyrene (i.e. boxes, with or without a cover) for immediate consumption without any further preparation, typically consumed from the container or ready to be consumed without further preparation;
    • products made from oxo-degradable plastic;
    • beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, including their caps and lids; and
    • cups for beverages made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids.

Consumption reduction

  • In line with the EU’s waste policy, EU Member States are required to:
    • take measures to reduce the consumption of certain SUPs for which there is no alternative (drinking cups including covers and lids, and containers of prepared food for immediate consumption); and
    • monitor consumption of these single-use products, along with the measures taken, and report the progress made to the European Commission.
  • The directive requires an ambitious and sustained quantitative reduction in consumption of these products by 2026 (compared to a 2022 baseline).
  • With regard to consumption reductions, the Commission has adopted an implementing act, Implementing Decision (EU) 2022/162 on calculating, verifying and reporting the reduction in the consumption of certain SUP products and the measures taken by Member States to achieve this reduction.

Separate collection and design requirements for SUP bottles

  • The directive sets a collection target of 90% recycling for SUP plastic bottles by 2029 (with an interim target of 77% by 2025).
  • These bottles should contain at least 25% recycled plastic in their manufacture by 2025 (for PET bottles), and 30% by 2030 (for all bottles).
  • Those with caps and lids made of plastic may be placed on the market only if the caps and lids remain attached to the containers during the products’ intended use stage.
  • Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/1752 sets out the rules for calculating, verifying and reporting data on the separate collection of waste SUP beverage bottles.

Compulsory marking

  • Certain disposable plastic products placed on the market must carry a visible, clearly legible and indelible marking affixed to its packaging or to the product itself. These products include:
    • sanitary items;
    • wet wipes;
    • tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products; and
    • cups for beverages.
  • These labels should inform consumers about:
    • appropriate waste disposal options for the product or what type of waste disposal should be avoided for the product; and
    • the presence of plastics in the product, along with the negative environmental impact of littering.
  • Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/2151 includes the rules on the marking specifications for these items.

Extended producer responsibility

  • The directive incorporates the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Producers will have to cover the costs of:
    • waste collection and of cleaning up litter;
    • data gathering in relation to wet wipes, balloons and tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products; and
    • awareness-raising for the following SUP products:
      • food and beverage containers,
      • beverage containers,
      • cups,
      • packets and wrappers,
      • lightweight carrier bags, and
      • tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products.
  • For wet wipes and balloons, these obligations will apply except for the collection costs.
  • Member States are also required to:
    • ensure rules on extended producer responsibility for fishing gear containing plastic are in place; and
    • monitor and assess such fishing gear with a view to establishing EU-wide collection targets.
  • Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/958 sets out the rules on the format for reporting the relevant data and information, and the format for the quality check report with regard to fishing gear placed on the market and waste fishing gear collected in Member States.

Information systems and reporting

Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/2267 sets out the format for reporting data and information on the collected post-consumption waste of tobacco products with filters and of filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products.

Awareness raising

Member States must also take measures to:

  • inform consumers and to encourage responsible consumer behaviour in order to reduce litter from the products listed above; and
  • make consumers aware of reusable alternative products and the impact of inappropriate disposal of SUP waste on the sewage system.

Commission guidelines

  • In June 2021, the Commission issued guidelines on SUP products to ensure that the requirements of the directive are applied correctly and uniformly throughout the EU.
  • The guidelines clarify the main terms used in the directive and provide examples of SUP products falling within or outside its scope.

FROM WHEN DO THE RULES APPLY?

  • The directive had to be transposed into national law by 3 July 2021.
  • The market restrictions and marking of product rules apply from 3 July 2021, while the product design requirements for caps and lids of SUP beverage containers apply from 3 July 2024.
  • The extended producer responsibility measures for tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products apply from 5 January 2023.

BACKGROUND

For further information, see:

KEY TERMS

Oxo-degradable plastic. Plastic materials that include additives which, through oxidation, lead to the fragmentation of the plastic material into micro-fragments or to chemical decomposition.

MAIN DOCUMENT

Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (OJ L 155, 12.6.2019, pp. 1–19).

RELATED DOCUMENTS

Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2022/162 of 4 February 2022 laying down rules for the application of Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the calculation, verification and reporting on the reduction in the consumption of certain single-use plastic products and the measures taken by Member States to achieve such reduction (OJ L 26, 7.2.2022, pp. 19–35).

Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/2267 of 17 December 2021 laying down the format for reporting data and information on the collected post-consumption waste of tobacco products with filters and of filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products (OJ L 455, 20.12.2021, pp. 32–36).

Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/1752 of 1 October 2021 laying down rules for the application of Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the calculation, verification and reporting of data on the separate collection of waste single-use plastic beverage bottles (OJ L 349, 4.10.2021, pp. 19–30).

Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/958 of 31 May 2021 laying down the format for reporting data and information on fishing gear placed on the market and waste fishing gear collected in Member States and the format for the quality check report in accordance with Articles 13(1)(d) and 13(2) of Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 211, 15.6.2021, pp. 51–64).

Successive amendments to Decision (EU) 2021/958 have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/2151 of 17 December 2020 laying down rules on harmonised marking specifications on single-use plastic products listed in Part D of the Annex to Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (OJ L 428, 18.12.2020, pp. 57–67).

Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain directives (OJ L 312, 22.11.2008, pp. 3–30).

See consolidated version .

European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC of 20 December 1994 on packaging and packaging waste (OJ L 365, 31.12.1994, pp. 10–23).

See consolidated version.

last update 11.04.2022

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