Reducing and preventing the impact of certain plastic products on the environment and human health has become the European Union Commission’s priority environmental objective. There are two groups of single-use plastic (SUP) products, made of different types of plastic, singled out as those posing the biggest threat to the environment:
- Beverage containers, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for balloons and cotton-bud sticks
- Sanitary towels, tampons, wet wipes and balloons
Measures on how to decrease the impact of plastic on the environment and human health have been suggested in the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of Europe, which came into force in March 2019. A realistic limitation of SUP is easier to achieve at an EU level rather than individually by member states. The proposed Directive is designed so that each EU Member State, through executing the required statutory provisions within the legislative framework and the administrative framework, will be able to gradually implement the harmonised objectives within two years of the approval of this legislation.
The objectives being:
- A complete ban on placing beverage containers (bottles, cups, etc.) with a separate lid (alternatively, you will be able to use containers with plastic lids permanently affixed to the packaging or made of substances other than plastic).
- A prohibition on placing on the market the following SUP products: cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks), plates, straws, stirrers for drinks, sticks supporting balloons, and cotton buds.
- An obligation to label disposable products – such as sanitary towels, tampons, wet-wipes, balloons – with a visible, legible and non-removable label providing information for consumers about advisable and inadvisable methods of disposal, as well as information on the negative effects of pollution caused by these products (for example, by littering).
- Encouraging transition to a circular economy through innovative solutions for new business models.
The requirements in point 1 are to be introduced in Member States within three years (by 2022), and those in point 2 and point 3 two years after the implementation of the Directive (2021).
Producers, as well as distributors (restaurateurs) and users (restaurateurs, consumers) are responsible for the total elimination and/or limitation of the aforementioned products. Systematically, the total elimination of plastic bottles and cups will be solved.
Plastic bottles and other disposable drink containers will be replaced by:
- plastic containers with a lid attached.
- plastic containers with a lid made of another non-plastic material and one not permanently attached to the container.
- other reusable bottles and containers
- returnable glass bottles (container deposit)
Following the ‘polluter pays’ principle by, for example, having to cover waste collection and transport costs involving these products, and by processing and financing means to raise awareness about these products, manufacturers will be encouraged to reduce the number of SUP products.
The case of restaurateurs and consumers is more difficult. The directive recommends introducing an obligation to monitor disposable products in circulation in order to demonstrate their decline in use, the broad dissemination of knowledge about the environmental and health risks of these products, and the provision of adequate facilities for the disposal of waste generated by them as the most effective means to achieving the above objectives.