2021, The End of Single-Use Plastic Products in the EU

Jan 25, 2019

 Europe wants to lead the fight against plastic pollution. On January 18th EU member states confirmed the provisional agreement reached between the presidency of the Council and the European Parliament on a new directive to introduce restrictions on certain single-use plastic products. In 2021 European citizens will say goodbye to plastic cutlery, plastic plates and plastic straws among other products. The aim of the directive, which is part of the European Plastics Strategy, is to protect the environment and reduce marine litter by avoiding the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2. However, it should be noted the importance of the economic benefits that the new regulation will bring: the directive may avoid environmental damages which would cost the equivalent of €22 billion ($24.9 billion) by 2030 and save consumers a projected €6.5 billion ($7.38 billion). The Spanish Government has already announced its commitment to comply with the upcoming directive. The new rules aim to stop the use of throwaway plastic products and packaging for which alternatives exist and is focused on the most frequently found items polluting European seas: plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, and chopsticks), plastic plates, plastic straws, cotton bud sticks made of plastic, beverage and food containers made of expanded polystyrene (such as fast food and takeaway boxes), and products made from oxo-degradable plastic, which contributes to microplastic pollution.  According to the European Commission, together these products constitute 70% of all marine litter items. Member states will also have to “achieve a measurable quantitative reduction” on the rest of food containers made of plastic and plastic cups for beverages. The directive foresees that from 2025 and all plastic bottles will have to respect a target of at least 30% of recycled content. Another purpose, when possible, will be to “give priority to waste prevention or to the transition to reusable products rather than to other single-use alternatives,” and to encourage “the reusability and recyclability” in the design of plastic products. The global production of plastics has not stopped to increase since 1960. According to the European Commission, in 2015 the global production reached 322 million tonnes and it is expected to double over the next 20 years. In Europe, around 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated every year and less than 30% of such waste is collected for recycling. Therefore, if we want to gain the battle against plastic pollution, it is essential to focus on the plastic production and recycling industry in order to promote the basis for a circular economy.

Article by FORBES magazine, “The End of Plastic Cutlery, Plates and Straws: EU Market Says Goodbye To Single-Use Plastic Products”.

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