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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.

Legislation on Single Use Plastics in force

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 single use plastics and fishing gear. The EU has adopted Directive (EU) 2019/904 (link), which entered into force on 2 July 2019.
The obligations of Articles 4, 5, 7 including the mandatory markings apply per 3 July 2021.

Three groups of single-use plastic (SUP) products are regulated by Directive (EU) 2019/904:

  • Single-use plastics; products intended to be used only once and that are not refilled or re-used.
  • Oxo-degradable plastics include additives that are fragmented into small parts through oxidation.
  • Fishing gear.

Single use plastics 10 most common plastic objects found on EU beaches

Copyright of image: Luxembourg, European Union, Publications Office of the European Union, 2018

Prevention, reduction, bans, restrictions, EPR and costs

The SUP Directive describes the following series of measures for single use or disposable plastics:

  • Article 4 and part A of the Annex: an "ambitious" reduction in the consumption of single use plastic beverage cups and food containers.
  • Article 5 and part B of the Annex: prohibit products made from oxo-degradable plastic and ban the following single use plastic products: cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, stirrers, balloon sticks and expanded polystyrene (EPS) food containers, beverage containers and cups, covers and lids.
  • Article 6(1) and part C of the Annex: caps and lids shall remain attached to plastic bottles (max. 3 litres) during use.
  • Article 6(5) and part F of the Annex: a minimum percentage of recycled plastics is defined for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles with maximum capacity of 3 litres.
  • Article 8 and part E of the Annex: extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes are established for food containers, boxes, packets and wrappers; beverage bottles, cups, caps and lids; lightweight plastic carrier bags; wet wipes; balloons; cigarette filters and fishing gear. Producers will cover the costs of awareness raising measures (Article 10) and ALL costs of waste collection and treatment.
  • Article 9 and part F: sets collection targets for waste beverage bottles (max. 3 litres).

Mandatory markings

Article 7 and part D of the Annex introduces marking requirements for the following SUP products:

  • Sanitary towels (pads)
  • Tampons and tampon applicators;
  • Wet wipes for personal care and domestic wipes;
  • Tobacco products with filters and separately sold filters;
  • Cups for beverages.

Regulation (EU) 2020/2151 (link) specifies the markings to be used from 3 July 2021.
The information text of the marking shall be written in the official language or languages of the Member State(s) where the single-use plastic product is placed on the market.

For sanitary towels and for wet wipes:
single use plastics icon for towel wipes

For tampons and tampon applicators:
single use plastics icon of tampon and tampon applicator

For filter cigarettes and filters:
single use plastic icon of plastic in filter cigarettes

For beverage cups:
single use plastics icons of plastic beverage cups

Single use plastics icon of cups grey tone

single use plastics icon for cups black white

The pictograms in vectorised format and available in all EU languages can be downloaded here:

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