Stress free guide to product compliance

2021-03-12
ProductIP
Expert

Legislation on Single Use Plastics

Disclaimer: This document provides guidance and is not a legally binding interpretation and shall therefore not be relied upon as legal advice.

The European Commission has the ambition to make the EU 'climate neutral' by 2050 or sooner. Part of this ambition is to tackle the problem of marine litter (plastic soup) in the form of disposed plastics and fishing gear.
The EU has adopted a new directive (EU) 2019/904 (link), which entered into force on 2 July 2019. The Directive bans 10 single-use plastic products (hereafter: 'SUP') most often found on European beaches, as well as abandoned fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics. The Directive sets recycling targets and extends the responsibilities for producers. In this Compliance Clip we will explain what you have to take into account if you have those plastic products in your assortment and by which date this becomes mandatory.

10 most common plastic objects found on EU beaches image
Copyright of image: Luxembourg, European Union, Publications Office of the European Union, 2018

Scope of the SUP Directive

Article 3 of the SUP Directive defines the terms as follows:

  • 'single-use plastic product' means a product that is made wholly or partly from plastic (see art. 5 of REACH) and that is not conceived, designed or placed on the market to accomplish, within its life span, multiple trips or rotations by being returned to a producer for refill or re-used for the same purpose for which it was conceived;
  • 'oxo-degradable plastic' means plastic materials that include additives which, through oxidation, lead to the frag mentation of the plastic material into micro-fragments or to chemical decomposition;
  • 'fishing gear' means any item or piece of equipment that is used in fishing or aquaculture to target, capture or rear marine biological resources or that is floating on the sea surface, and is deployed with the objective of attracting and capturing or of rearing such marine biological resources;

Measures taken with the SUP Directive

The summary of the measures that the European Commission has taken are:

1. Consumption reduction (article 4)
Member States (MS) are instructed to take the necessary measures to achieve a measurable quantitative reduction in the use of those products by 2026 in comparison to 2022. By 3 July 2021, the MS shall prepare a description of the measures which they have adopted. This applies to the following single use (disposable) plastic products:

  1. Cups for beverages, including their covers and lids;
  2. Food containers, i.e. receptacles such as boxes, with or without a cover, used to contain food which:
    (a) is intended for immediate consumption, either on-the-spot or take-away,
    (b) is typically consumed from the receptacle, and
    (c) is ready to be consumed without any further preparation, such as cooking, boiling or heating, including food containers used for fast food or other meal ready for immediate consumption, except beverage containers, plates and packets and wrappers containing food.

2. Ban of certain SUPs (article 5)
The SUP Directive instructs MS to ban certain SUPs from the market at the latest on 3 July 2021. These single use (disposable) plastic products are:

  1. Cotton bud sticks (with the exception of medical application);
  2. Cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks);
  3. Plates;
  4. Straws ((with the exception of medical application);
  5. Beverage stirrers;
  6. Sticks to be attached to and to support balloons (except balloons for industrial or other professional uses and applications that are not distributed to consumers, including the mechanisms of such sticks);
  7. Food containers made of expanded polystyrene, i.e. receptacles such as boxes, with or without a cover, used to contain food which:
    (a) is intended for immediate consumption, either on-the-spot or take-away,
    (b) is typically consumed from the receptacle, and
    (c) is ready to be consumed without any further preparation, such as cooking, boiling or heating, including food containers used for fast food or other meal ready for immediate consumption, except beverage containers, plates and packets and wrappers containing food;
  8. Beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, including their caps and lids;
  9. Cups for beverages made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids.

3. Product requirements (article 6)
MS are required to ensure that beverage bottles which contain polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as their main component, must contain a minimum of 25% recycled plastic by 2025 and by 2030 this percentage must be 30%. Furthermore, the following SUP must have caps and lids made of plastic that remain attached to the containers during the products' intended use:
Beverage containers with a capacity of up to 3 litres, i.e. receptacles used to contain liquid, such as beverage bottles including their caps and lids and composite beverage packaging including their caps and lids, but not:
(a) glass or metal beverage containers that have caps and lids made from plastic,
(b) beverage containers intended and used for food for special medical purposes.

4. Marking requirements (article 7)
The following products must bear a marking on its packaging or on the product itself informing users of the appropriate waste management options or disposal means that should be avoided and of the presence of plastics in the products and the resulting negative impact of littering or tether inappropriate disposal of the products:

  1. Sanitary towels (pads), tampons and tampon applicators;
  2. Wet wipes, i.e. pre-wetted personal care and domestic wipes;
  3. Tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products;
  4. Cups for beverages.

By 3 July 2020, the European Commission shall adopt an implementing act establishing harmonised specifications.

5. Extended producer responsibility (article 8)
The intention of extended producer responsibility (EPR) is to shift the financial burden for the clean-up and recycling of plastic littered items from the tax payer and private bodies to producers of the following SUP products:

  1. Food containers
  2. Packets and wrappers made from flexible material containing food that is intended for immediate consumption from the packet or wrapper without any further preparation;
  3. Beverage containers with a capacity of up to three litres

These SUP producers must cover the costs of awareness-raising measures: costs of waste collection for those products that are discarded in public collection systems (including the infrastructure and its operation, and the subsequent transport and treatment of that waste) and the costs of cleaning up litter resulting from those products and the subsequent transport and treatment of that litter.

Fishing gear
As mentioned the Directive regulates the use of plastics in fishing gear. Through EPR, it is the objective to set op schemes for fishing gear. The schemes shall cover the costs of the separate collection of waste fishing gear (by 31 December 2024). Furthermore, Members States are instructed to set a national collection target and monitor fishing gear collection in view to a later EU-wide collection target. The European Commission has requested the European Standardisation organisations to draft harmonised standards for the circular design of fishing gear.

6. Separate collection (article 9)
The SUP Directive sets targets for the Member States to achieve by:
2025: separate collection for recycling of waste beverage bottles with a capacity of up to 3 litres by 77%;
2029: separate collection for recycling of waste beverage bottles with a capacity of up to 3 litres by 90%.

Are there (already) harmonised standards available?

As noted above the European Commission must, no later than 3 October 2019, request the standardisation organisations to start developing harmonised standards to allow manufacturers to have standards to comply with and have an assumption of conformity.
As soon as the standards become available, ProductIP users will see these standards within their account.

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