1 November 2018 by Will Date

EU ministers seek clarity on single-use plastics

Environment ministers from EU member states have called for strict guidelines on the definition of ‘single-use’ plastics, as part of new EU regulations being drawn up to reduce plastic waste.

The European Commission is proposing new rules targeting products such as plastic bottles and lids, food containers, beverage cups, plastic cutlery and carrier bags – items which it believes are commonly found on beaches and in the sea due to littering.

Abandoned fishing equipment and items such as wet wipes and tobacco filters would also be covered by a part of the legislation.

European ministers have called for clear guidance on what are single-use plastics (picture: Shutterstock)

Measures being considered as part of the new ‘Single-use Plastics Directive’ include increased collection targets for the materials – with proposals for member states to be obliged to collect 90% of plastic drinks bottles by 2025 (see letsrecycle.com story).


Following discussions between environment ministers earlier this month, the European Council of Ministers agreed its position on the proposals yesterday, and has called for clear guidance on the definition of what constitutes ‘single-use’ plastics alongside standardised labelling on products.

Through yesterday’s resolution, ministers have broadly given their backing for the proposals set out by the Commission, but have suggested some additional work is needed on guidance from any proposed new laws.

The Council has suggested that the requirements should apply to products that are ‘typically intended to be used just once or for a short period of time’, and has called for the Commission to publish guidelines on examples of what is considered a single use plastic product.

Commission proposals have also suggested that producers of plastic items cover the costs of litter clean-up, a proposal which the Council should be extended to importers of distributors of plastic products or packaging.

Elsewhere the draft proposals suggest that the EU will implement a ban on single-use products such as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks, where non-plastic alternatives exist.


“We will make plastic producers pay for cleaning up”

Elisabeth Kostlinger
Federal minister, Austria

Elisabeth Köstinger, the federal minister of sustainability and tourism of Austria, which currently holds the presidency of the Council, said: “Plastic waste is polluting our rivers, our beaches and our oceans. This is why we will ban plastic products for which good alternatives exist. And we will make plastic producers pay for cleaning up.

“Today’s decision is an important step towards protecting our environment.”

The proposal is being considered as part of the EU’s plastics strategy, and was presented by the Commission in late May 2018. Environment ministers discussed the proposal at their meetings on 25 June and on 9 October.

Yesterday’s agreement means that the Presidency of the Council can begin talks with the European Parliament on the proposed legislation next week (6 November).

Key among the discussions is likely to be the European Parliament’s bid to include a requirement for at least 35% recycled content in new plastic bottles by 2025 (see letsrecycle.com story). The proposal was approved by MEPs last week – and has been welcomed as a positive step by Europe’s waste and recycling businesses.


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