The EU’s Single-Use Plastics Directive (Directive 2019/904), which came into force on 2 July 2019, represents a milestone in the bloc’s efforts to contain the generation of plastic waste by forcing member states to prioritise non-toxic reusable products and reuse systems. The Directive enriches the EU’s plastics strategy, which was already one of the most stringent in the world, placing the bloc at the vanguard of the fight against single-use products.
Some of its main stipulations are that:
- Member states are required to take the necessary measures in order to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic products;
- Starting on 3 July 2021, they must ban the placement on the market of products made from non-degradable plastics, including cutlery, plates, certain straws, beverage stirrers, certain cotton bud sticks and food containers made out of expended polystyrene;
- Starting on 3 July 2024, certain beverage containers that have lids and caps made of plastic are only allowed to be placed on the market if the former remain attached to the container;
- That certain PET bottles contain at least 25% recycled plastic;
- That sanitary products, tobacco products and cups contain markings informing consumers of the existence of plastics in these products and their adverse environmental impact;
The directive also makes mandatory the introduction of extended producer responsibility schemes in all member states starting on 3 December 2024 in order to manage the treatment of single-use plastic products and fishing gear that contains plastic.
The first half of 2019 was a happening period for EU legislation of plastic in general. In January, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) announced that it would use the REACH chemicals regulation in order to effectively ban microplastics in many everyday products like cosmetics, detergents, medical and farm products and paints. The ban is expected to become law across the EU by 2020 and to prevent 400,000 tonnes of plastic pollution.