In June 2019, the European Union (EU) issued the Single-use Plastic Directive 2019/904 (SUP), which intends to reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. Merchants must comply with their independent product-level obligations under the SUP as locally implemented in each individual EU Member State.
Article 5 of the SUP defines types of “single-use plastic” products that cannot be placed on the EU market (for any EU Member State) after July 3, 2021.
The banned products are as follows:
- Products made from oxo-degradable plastic
- Specific single-use or disposable plastic products, including those made of biodegradable plastic, such as:
- Cotton buds and cotton swabs that have sticks made from plastic or biodegradable plastic, even if described as reusable
- Cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks and similar)
- Beverage stirrers
- Balloon sticks for consumer use
- Food containers made of expanded polystyrene
- Beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, including their caps and lids
- Cups for beverages made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids
Note that the definition of “single-use plastics” excludes plastic products that are conceived, designed, and placed on the market to accomplish within their life span multiple trips or rotations by being refilled or re-used for the same purpose for which they are conceived. The ban also exempts some medical-related plastics.
According to Article 7 of the SUP, certain single-use plastic products which are placed on the EU market are also required to bear a harmonized marking on the packaging or product itself after July 3, 2021.
- The four types of products below are required to be labeled with the harmonized mark:
- Sanitary towels (pads), tampons, and tampon applicators
- Wet wipes
- Tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products
- Cups for beverages
- The mandated marking informs consumers that: (i) the packaging contains plastic; (ii) the product should be disposed of in the waste bin; and (iii) it provides information on the negative effects of litter on the environment.
Please refer to the provided harmonized markings from the European Union page on Marking specifications for single-use plastic products.
- According to Article 8 of the SUP, there will be Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes for single-use plastic products which are placed on the EU market. Producers will pay for waste collection, litter clean-up, and consumer awareness measures. This will be applicable starting January 5, 2023.
- As detailed by Article 6 of the SUP, beverage containers with plastic lids or caps may be placed on the EU market only if the caps and lids are attached to the containers. This will be applicable starting July 3, 2024.
- As detailed by Article 6 of the SUP, bottles made primarily of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) must consist of at least 25% recycled plastic by 2025. By 2030, this should be at least 30% and applies to all plastic bottles (not only PET).
- Eventually, merchants making goods available on the EU market for the first time (i.e., supplying consumer products for distribution, consumption, or use in exchange for payment or as free of charge but in the course of commercial activity) will be responsible for covering the costs of measures to raise consumer awareness of the impacts of single-use plastic on the environment and support reusable alternatives (e.g., via campaigns, alternative logos/markings, etc.)
- EU Member States will have to establish separate collection targets of single-use plastic products for extended producer responsibility schemes. By 2025, such schemes will include the collection for recycling of 77% of single-use plastic products placed on the market in a given year by weight, and by 2029, this will be increased to the collection of 90% of single-use plastic products placed on the market in a given year by weight.
For more information, please refer to the European Union website’s page for single-use plastics.
- SUP, EU Directive 2019/904: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32019L0904&from=DE#d1e32-17-1
- EU Website on single-use plastics: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/topics/plastics/single-use-plastics_en
- EU Website on marking specifications for single-use plastic products: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/topics/plastics/single-use-plastics/sups-marking-specifications_en