Acknowledging that more than 80% of marine litter is plastics, the European Commission has proposed new EU-wide rules targeting the 10 single-use plastic products which constitute 70% of all marine litter items. The Commission’s proposal addressing plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas builds on the EU Plastics Strategy adopted in January 2018 as a part of EU’s transition towards a more circular economy. The Commission’s proposal addressing single-use plastics seeks to contribute to reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the EU's climate commitments. According to the Commission, the proposal has been inspired by the successful 2015 Plastic Bags Directive, which brought about a rapid shift in consumer behaviour.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development said: " Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food.”

The new EU rules to reduce marine litter will include a ban on certain products such as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks, single-use drinks containers, which will all have to be made exclusively from more sustainable materials. It is important to emphasise that alternatives are readily available and affordable, according to the Commission. In addition, the Commission proposes adoption of consumption reduction targets to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups. The new rules are expected to impose obligations on producers to contribute to costs of waste management and clean-up. On the other hand, the industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products. EU member states will be obliged to collect 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025. As regards awareness raising measures, certain products will require a clear and standardised labelling which indicates how waste should be disposed as well as negative environmental impact of the product. In addition, EU member states will be obliged to raise consumers' awareness about the negative impact of littering of single-use plastics, available re-use systems and waste management options.

The new EU rules on single-use plastics are expected to provide clarity and legal certainty that EU companies need to take the lead in new markets for innovative multi-use alternatives. Thus, the Commission believes that incentive to look for more sustainable solutions can give EU companies the technological lead over global competitors. Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said: “This is an opportunity for Europe to lead the way, creating products that the world will demand for decades to come, and extracting more economic value from our precious and limited resources.”

The Commission's proposals will go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption.

European Union