21.12.2018   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 461/210


Opinion of the European Committee of the Regions — Proposal for a single-use plastics directive

(2018/C 461/17)

Rapporteur-general:

Sirpa HERTELL (FI-EPP), city councillor of Espoo

Reference documents:

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

COM(2018) 340 final — 2018/0172 (COD)

I.   RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AMENDMENTS

Amendment 1

Citation 1

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Article 192(1) thereof,

Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Article 192(1) thereof and Article 114 in respect of packaging as defined under Article 3(1) of Directive 94/62/EC,

Reason

This amendment refers to the first sentence of the preamble. It aims to clarify the legal status of the single-use plastic products that are considered packaging in this proposed Directive vis-à-vis the adopted Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

Amendment 2

Recital 11

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

(11)

For certain single-use plastic products, suitable and more sustainable alternatives are not yet readily available and the consumption of most such single-use plastic products is expected to increase. To reverse that trend and promote efforts towards more sustainable solutions Member States should be required to take the necessary measures to achieve a significant reduction in the consumption of those products, without compromising food hygiene or food safety, good hygiene practices, good manufacturing practices, consumer information, or traceability requirements set out in Union food legislation.

(11)

For certain single-use plastic products, suitable and more sustainable alternatives are not yet readily available and the consumption of most such single-use plastic products is expected to increase. To reverse that trend and promote efforts towards more sustainable solutions Member States should be required to take the necessary measures, without prejudice to article 18 of Directive 94/62/EC , to achieve a significant reduction in the consumption of those products, without compromising food hygiene or food safety, good hygiene practices, good manufacturing practices, consumer information, or traceability requirements set out in Union food legislation. Prior to adopting such measures, Member States should be required to conduct an assessment of the social, economic and environmental impacts to ensure the measures are proportionate and non-discriminatory.

Reason

This amendment aims to ensure that measures implemented at national, regional and local levels are proportionate, non-discriminatory, and consistent with the existing EU legislation, including Directive 2008/98/EC and Directive 94/62/EC.

Amendment 3

Article 1

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

The objective of this Directive is to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, in particular the aquatic environment, and on human health, as well as to promote the transition to a circular economy with innovative business models, products and materials, thus also contributing to the efficient functioning of the internal market.

The objective of this Directive is to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment in general , in particular plastic waste transportation to any aquatic environment, including freshwater and shallow sea, as well as on human health or sea-life, and to promote the transition to a circular economy with innovative business models, products and materials, thus also contributing to the efficient functioning of the internal market.

Reason

Recently plastic litter has been reported not only in maritime environments, but also in fresh water including rivers and lakes. The findings are observed in every environment, from mountain-top glaciers to springs or rivers. This is a clear indication that plastic waste is distributed in nature through many different mechanisms, many of which are not thoroughly understood.

Urban runoff, the water from rain and melting snow, is not included properly. Urban runoff is an increasing problem, as climate warming is leading to extreme rainfall. In Nordic areas snow dumping in seas and lakes is also one of the causes for plastic to appear in aquatic systems.

Europe has multiple sensitive aquatic ecosystems like rivers and lakes, and especially two very sensitive sea ecosystems, namely the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

Amendment 4

Article 2

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

This Directive shall apply to the single-use plastic products listed in the Annex and to fishing gear containing plastic.

This Directive shall apply to the single-use plastic products especially those listed in the Annex , or in general any other disposable non-degradable plastic items left in the environment for any reason and to fishing gear containing plastic.

Reason

It is vitally important to understand that besides non-degradable fossil polymers, there are fossil-based biodegradable plastics and non-degradable bio-based plastics. The litter forms from non-degradable materials left in the environment for any reason. The main solution should be that to collect all disposable material and recycle it mechanically, chemically or using biotechnological means. Products have to be designed in a way that makes this possible. Disposable plastic when outside of the collection system always has the potential to become waste in aqueous ecosystems.

Fishing gear is essentially used in aquatic environments and may be lost accidentally even when properly used.

The current proposal addresses only a part of the issue of plastic marine litter. Fisheries recover, but shipping and yachting activities in European sea areas should be thoroughly controlled and regulated to protect against waste dumping in the sea and for appropriate waste management on shore. The Mediterranean and Baltic seas are particularly relevant because of tourism and should be subject to special protection.

Amendment 5

Article 3(3) (new after 3(2))

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

 

(3)     single-use plastics, often also referred to as disposable plastics, products that are designed to be used once only with a limited life span, which may disintegrate in many individual and separate components and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled;

Reason

Many plastic materials used for a long time are single-use, e.g. medical devices or thermal building insulation therefore it is recommendable to use the term ‘disposable plastic’ and simultaneously define the expected lifetime of the product; or products that may disintegrate e.g. toys, closures, etc.

Amendment 6

Article 3(15) (new after 3(14))

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

 

(15)     plastics degradable in aquatic environments, biodegradable modified natural polymers and synthetic polymers are not defined as ‘plastic’.

Reason

Plastic materials have very different behaviours in the environment. Natural polymers are without exception biodegradable, while certain synthetic polymers are also biodegradable. According to ASTM D6002, biodegradable plastics are those that are capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost site such that the material is not visually distinguishable and breaks down into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds and biomass at a rate consistent with known compostable materials.

Amendment 7

Article 4(1)

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

1.   Member States shall take the necessary measures to achieve a significant reduction in the consumption of the single-use plastic products listed in Part A of the Annex on their territory by … [six years after the end-date for transposition of this Directive].

1.    Without prejudice to Article 18 of the Directive 94/62/EC , Member States shall take the necessary measures to achieve a significant reduction in the consumption of the single-use plastic products listed in Part A of the Annex on their territory by … [six years after the end-date for transposition of this Directive].

Those measures may include national consumption reduction targets, measures ensuring that reusable alternatives to those products are made available at the point of sale to the final consumer, economic instruments such as ensuring that single-use plastic products are not provided free of charge at the point of sale to the final consumer. Those measures may vary depending on the environmental impact of the products referred to in the first subparagraph.

Those measures , proportionate and non-discriminatory , may include national consumption reduction targets, measures ensuring that reusable alternatives to those products are made available at the point of sale to the final consumer, economic instruments such as ensuring that single-use plastic products are not provided free of charge at the point of sale to the final consumer. Those measures may vary depending on the environmental impact of the products referred to in the first subparagraph.

 

Member States or their local and regional authorities should also be able to limit the use of single-use plastic products other than those listed in Part A of the Annex, on their territory for specific reasons in well defined limited areas, in order to protect the most sensitive ecosystems, specific biotypes like natural reservations, archipelagos, river deltas or the natural Arctic environment.

Reason

The 7th Environment Action Programme to 2020 includes as Priority Objective 1: ‘To protect, conserve and enhance the Union’s natural capital’. This is essential in the most sensitive ecosystems, including those of specific biotypes and related ecosystems, wetlands and shallow waters, mountain areas and Nordic natural environments, especially Arctic environments.

The reference to Article 18 of the Packaging & Packaging waste Directive 94/62/EC should ensure coherence between the already adopted directive and this proposal. Measures adopted by the Member States should be proportionate and non-discriminatory.

Amendment 8

Article 4(1)

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

1.   Member States shall take the necessary measures to achieve a significant reduction in the consumption of the single-use plastic products listed in Part A of the Annex on their territory by … [six years after the end-date for transposition of this Directive].

1.   Member States shall take the necessary measures to achieve a significant reduction in the consumption of the single-use plastic products listed in Part A of the Annex on their territory by … [six years after the end-date for transposition of this Directive].

Those measures may include national consumption reduction targets, measures ensuring that reusable alternatives to those products are made available at the point of sale to the final consumer, economic instruments such as ensuring that single-use plastic products are not provided free of charge at the point of sale to the final consumer. Those measures may vary depending on the environmental impact of the products referred to in the first subparagraph.

Those measures may include national consumption reduction targets, measures ensuring that reusable alternatives to those products are made available at the point of sale to the final consumer, economic instruments such as ensuring that single-use plastic products are not provided free of charge at the point of sale to the final consumer. Those measures may vary depending on the environmental impact of the products referred to in the first subparagraph.

 

Member States should actively stimulate innovation and investment with a view to circular solutions to support the potential for growth in tourism and the blue economy.

Reason

Solving disposable plastic waste issues, and plastic recycling in general, are part of the Plastics Strategy to stimulate innovation and investment with a view to circular solutions, which includes EU research funding under Horizon 2020 and the European Structural and Investment Funds. Research and development are insufficient, however: there is a direct need for piloting and demonstration financing as well.

The 2017 Strategy ‘Towards the Outermost Regions’ recognises their potential for growth in tourism and the blue economy as well as the circular economy. This is valid for all European maritime regions and should also include major lake areas.

Amendment 9

Article 9

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

Member States shall take the necessary measures to collect separately, by 2025, an amount of waste single-use plastic products listed in Part F of the Annex equal to 90 % of such single-use plastic products placed on the market in a given year by weight. In order to achieve that objective Member States may inter alia:

Member States shall take the necessary measures to collect separately, by 2025, an amount of waste single-use plastic products listed in Part F of the Annex equal to 90 % of such single-use plastic products placed on the market in a given year by weight. In order to achieve that objective Member States may inter alia:

(a)

establish deposit-refund schemes, or

(a)

establish deposit-refund schemes, examining the possibility of coordination or harmonization of such schemes at EU level , or

(b)

establish separate collection targets for relevant extended producer responsibility schemes.

(b)

establish separate collection targets for relevant extended producer responsibility schemes including, where relevant, incentives for exceeding the targets .

 

(c)

in line with the waste hierarchy, recover part of the plastic waste chemically in the form of polymers, monomers or other chemical products or energy through controlled combustion.

 

Controlled combustion is preferable where the plastic cannot be recovered in other ways at a reasonable cost or where recycling would result in a higher carbon footprint than combustion.

Reason

New deposit schemes may be an important step in addressing this problem, but wherever possible should be coordinated at EU level.

A system of fixed targets for separate collection should always also include special bonuses for regions or local authorities which want to go beyond the targets, to avoid that setting targets discourages the most advanced.

In certain cases, however, it is necessary to recover part of the plastic waste chemically in the form of polymers, monomers or other chemical products or energy through controlled combustion.

Amendment 10

Article 10

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

Member States shall take measures to inform consumers of the single-use plastic products listed in Part G of the Annex and fishing gear containing plastic about the following:

Member States in cooperation with local and regional authorities shall take the necessary measures to inform consumers of the single-use plastic products listed in Part G of the Annex and fishing gear containing plastic about the following:

(a)

the available re-use systems and waste management options for those products and fishing gear containing plastic as well as best practices in sound waste management carried out in accordance with Article 13 of Directive 2008/98/EC;

(a)

the available re-use systems and waste management options for those products and fishing gear containing plastic as well as best practices in sound waste management carried out in accordance with Article 13 of Directive 2008/98/EC;

(b)

the impact of littering and other inappropriate waste disposal of those products and fishing gear containing plastic on the environment, and in particular on the marine environment.

(b)

the impact of littering and other inappropriate waste disposal of those products and fishing gear containing plastic on the environment, and in particular on the marine environment.

Reason

The important role of local and regional authorities in waste collection and management needs to be taken into account in the awareness raising measures in cooperation with the Member States.

Amendment 11

Article 11

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

Each Member State shall ensure that the measures taken to transpose and implement this Directive form an integral part of and are consistent with its programmes of measures established in accordance with Article 13 of Directive 2008/56/EC for those Member States that have marine waters, the programmes of measures established in accordance with Article 11 of Directive 2000/60/EC, waste management and waste prevention programmes established in accordance with Articles 28 and 29 of Directive 2008/98/EC and the waste reception and handling plans established under Union law for the management of waste from ships.

Each Member State shall ensure that the measures taken to transpose and implement this Directive form an integral part of and are consistent with its programmes of measures established in accordance with Article 13 of Directive 2008/56/EC for those Member States that have marine waters, the programmes of measures established in accordance with Article 11 of Directive 2000/60/EC, waste management and waste prevention programmes established in accordance with Articles 28 and 29 of Directive 2008/98/EC and the waste reception and handling plans established under Union law for the management of waste from ships.

The measures that Member States take to transpose and implement Articles 4 to 9 shall comply with Union food law to ensure that food hygiene and food safety are not compromised.

The measures that Member States take to transpose and implement Articles 4 to 9 shall comply with Union consumer protection and food laws to ensure that food hygiene and consumer safety are not compromised.

Reason

It is vital to ensure that functionality of packaging and the critical role it plays in delivering high standards of food hygiene, food safety, public health and consumer protection are not compromised.

Amendment 12

Article 15(2)

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

2.   The Commission shall submit a report on the main findings of the evaluation carried out in accordance with paragraph 1 to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee.

2.   The Commission shall submit a report on the main findings of the evaluation carried out in accordance with paragraph 1 to the European Parliament, the Council, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.

Reason

This directive is of great importance for local and regional authorities, in particular for their role in waste collection and management. It is necessary to include the Committee of the Regions in the evaluation and review process.

II.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

In general

1.

underlines that plastic in its many applications is vitally important for modern society and that its safety and efficiency are improving. Simultaneously the disadvantages of plastic waste have become very obvious and firm attempts to tackle the problem are needed;

2.

welcomes the European Commission proposal on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, while noting that its scope is quite narrow. Instead of just listing a limited number of plastic items found on the sea shore and prohibiting them, a more holistic approach as envisaged in the EU Plastic Strategy and in the EU Circular Economy Strategy is necessary in the long term to promote the fundamental changes which are necessary to address this problem covering all the environments as well as broad policy coherence with the Circular Economy Package is needed;

3.

In this context, asks the European Commission to present a comprehensive impact assessment clearly outlining the social, economic and environmental implications of the proposed measures;

4.

calls for the definitions ‘plastic’ and ‘single-use plastic product’ to be further clarified, in particular the definition ‘single-use plastic product’, which is a product that is made wholly or partly from plastic. The definition of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) is recommendable here;

5.

notes that European legislation has made it illegal to dump plastic waste in landfill sites. However, unless new technologies and routes for plastic recycling are rapidly developed, there is a danger that the ban will increase the transportation of plastic waste to third countries, where less developed waste management systems and inadequate plastic recycling production may increase maritime plastic waste;

6.

underlines that the EU Plastics Strategy already includes specific measures on microplastics, which are linked to plastic litter as well;

7.

reiterates the call to reduce plastic littering in all respects, in order to protect not only maritime environments but also ecosystems in general. It is essential to increase the recovery and recycling of plastic, in line with the waste hierarchy;

Consistency with existing policy

8.

emphasises that plastics are used in several applications, where they limit and prevent other losses, e.g. food packaging used in order to reduce qualitative and quantitative nutritional losses;

9.

notes that EU plastics policy proposes biodegradable plastics as an alternative to mechanical and chemical recycling when they solve problems related to contamination. Paperboard should be increasingly used here as an alternative;

10.

points out that the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive requires Member States to achieve Good Environmental Status of their marine waters by 2020. The requirements are especially strict for sensitive ecosystems, like shallow and Nordic aquatic systems, due to the sensitivity of these natural environments and to their slow recovery from stress. The directive should be extended to include the entire aquatic ecosystem;

11.

stresses that in line with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive modern water treatment plants effectively capture macroplastic contaminants, and calls for this technology to be applied consistently throughout Europe. Simultaneously, the mulch produced from wastewater treatment sludge presents a risk of microplastic waste. More ways should be developed of fractionating plastic waste from artificial mulch;

12.

is convinced that urban runoff waters, rain drainage and melting snow have to be considered in the proposal. With climate warming leading to extreme rainfall, snow-dumping in seas and lakes should be prohibited;

13.

points out that the current proposal addresses only a part of the issue of plastic marine litter. Shipping and yachting activities in European seas should be thoroughly controlled and regulated to prevent waste-dumping in seas and ensure waste management on shore, especially in the Mediterranean and Baltic seas;

Subsidiarity (for non-exclusive competence) and proportionality

14.

notes that the problem of plastic pollution and marine litter is cross-border in nature and therefore cannot be tackled in isolation by Member States sharing seas and waterways. For this reason, and also because of the need to avoid a fragmentation of the single market, the CoR is of the view that the present proposal represents genuine added value at EU level and is in line with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;

15.

underlines that the problem should be addressed at source and should be solved by reducing non-degradable plastic waste entering the economy. In cases where problems nonetheless need to be addressed downstream, for example where regional and municipal water treatment works need to filter out microplastics, local and regional authorities must be compensated in full for the cost of these measures, with the costs being borne by the producers;

16.

is convinced that plastic waste recycling should be organised close to where the waste was discarded so as to avoid transportation;

17.

calls for changes in product design and a switch to more sustainable plastics and substitutes for plastics. Due to the risk of market fragmentation, the Member States should agree on a common deposit system for plastic packaging, especially for packaging of liquids. In the case of caps and lids for plastic beverage containers, it would be recommendable to use recyclable fibre-based solutions. In the case of disposable goods, especially in personal hygiene products, the EU should promote biodegradable alternatives;

18.

supports application of the polluter-pays principle, including for fishing gear, and stresses the need to implement new solutions for environmentally safe fishing gear, including affordable biodegradable alternatives, and, where possible, equipping nets with tracking technology and establishing a digital reporting system for lost gear;

19.

emphasises that given the differences between Member States and organisation of their waste management, we need more flexibility on the most suitable methods for handling all non-recyclable plastics. There is a need to develop waste collection system that accepts any plastic waste produced during commercial activities at sea or collected in the maritime environment in order to prevent waste dumping offshore;

Measures proposed

20.

supports the four options or scenarios presented in the document. Information campaigns, voluntary actions and labelling could increase general awareness and thus influence consumer behaviour. The question is whether this alone would change the actual behaviour of people in the long term, which is the essence of the problem;

21.

proposes the following measures for consideration:

a.

labelling requirements are important to inform consumers about appropriate waste disposal operations or disposal methods to be avoided (especially disposable fibre products such as wet wipes), but active support for the development of environmentally sustainable alternatives, like biodegradable nonwoven products, is needed;

b.

restrictions on the placing on the market of single-use plastics with readily available alternatives should be markedly wider then proposed and include more disposable objects than e.g. straws;

c.

general reduction targets, especially for serving packaging (packaging used for fast food, e.g. beverage cups, food containers) should be strengthened, with recommendations for recyclable and biodegradable alternatives, while allowing Member States to adopt their own measures to achieve the reduction;

d.

commitments by retailers to minimise disposable plastic sales based on binding agreements could be offered as an alternative to extended producer responsibility for all items not falling under the market restriction measure;

e.

where plastic use is essential in primary production of food (e.g. fishing gear and agricultural films); new technological solutions should be provided to collect the material after every use and financial incentives offered for recycling and reuse;

f.

product design measures should also be extended to service design as is already the case in several Member States (e.g. drinking bottles with tethered caps).

22.

calls for the Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste, which lays down consumption reduction objectives for lightweight plastic carrier bags, including very lightweight plastic carrier bags, to be extended to all lightweight packaging materials made of non-degradable materials;

23.

proposes that fishing gear be available on a lease with a separate company accountable for material collection and recycling. Technical measures to detect and find lost fishing gear could be developed;

24.

stresses that sales packaging with polymeric lining that is not filled at the point of sale, such as milk cartons, should not be covered by the definition of a single-use plastic product;

Regulatory fitness and simplification

25.

calls for incentives and support measures for more than 50 000 SMEs in the plastics sector to develop alternative products to non-degradable disposable plastics. It is important to facilitate the market entry of new alternative materials and alternative product designs through innovation programmes and investment support for process modification;

26.

believes that retailer voluntary agreements to limit disposable plastic sales should be promoted provided their implementation and effectiveness can be properly monitored;

27.

considers it necessary to have market restrictions on disposable plastics imported into the EU;

Budget implications

28.

emphasises that incentives, support for development and enhanced control, as well as activities for cleaning up disposable plastic waste, should be financed through taxes on the import and manufacture of disposable plastic materials.

Brussels, 10 October 2018.

The President of the European Committee of the Regions

Karl-Heinz LAMBERTZ