The UK and Europe plastic industry initiatives to improve environmental performance

The European Parliament Plenary has adopted the Provisional Agreement of 18 December 2018 of the Single Use Plastics Directive (SUP). The Directive has been approved by a large majority of MEPs with 560 in favour, 35 not in favour and 28 abstentions.

Key considerations 

- The directive is to ban the sale across the EU by 2021 of single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks); single-use plastic plates; plastic straws; plastic beverage stirrers; cotton bud sticks whose stems are plastic; and plastic balloon sticks for domestic rather than commercial use;

- Commission Guidelines on what is to be considered an SUP product will be developed as well as guidelines on clean-up costs; (this means other single use plastics may also be included in the future, lightweight carrier bags maybe?)

- An average of 25% recycled content from 2025 for PET bottles and 30% from 2030 for all beverage bottles;

- By 2029, member states would have to ensure 90% of plastic bottles used in their territories by 2029 are collected for recycling;

- Consumption reduction: no specific reduction target but Member States are to prepare by 1 year before end of transposition a description of all the measures they have adopted and shall notify description to EU Commission and make it publicly available;

- Packets and wrappers have been removed from marking requirements;

- Ban of EPS food containers, beverage containers and cups for beverages remains; ban of products made from oxo-degradable plastic;

- In 2027, after evaluation of progress made, the EU Commissions will submit a report, accompanied by legislative proposal if appropriate. 

Next steps 

  • Final confirmatory vote from the EU Council of Ministers;

This is considered a formality as agreement with EU Council has been already reached as part of trilogue meetings in January 2019;

  • Member States will have two years from the formal adoption of the SUP Directive to implement the new rules. 

To be further clarified

  • The SUP Directive takes precedence over the Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive and the Waste Framework Directive;

Lex specialis status remains – this means that a derogation to Art.18 of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive is possible but only if it aims to prevent the littering of the products;

  • Uncertainties remain over the costs of clean-up which fall under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).