2018.12.20

“Plastic litter is already very noticeable in the Baltic Sea”

2018.12.20

Parliament and Council agree on new single-use plastics directive

The recent Parliament and Council agreement on the single-use plastics directive is an important step forward towards reducing marine plastic litter, says Hanna Sjölund, policy officer at Baltic Sea Centre.

Text: Henrik Hamrén

The presidency of the Council and the European Parliament reached an agreement on Wednesday to set stricter rules for single-use plastic products and packaging that are most frequently found polluting European beaches, aiming to reduce these products.

The agreement includes new rules that ban the use of plastic cutlery, plates, straws, cotton bud sticks, beverage stirrers, oxo-degradable plastics, and food containers and drinking cups made of expanded polystyrene.

– Marine plastic litter is a growing global problem which is already very noticeable in the Baltic Sea region. Having this directive in place, which targets the use of both single-use plastic products for which alternatives exist, and the most frequently littered products, will undoubtedly be an important tool in the efforts to reduce marine litter, says Hanna Sjölund.

For plastic bottles, the EU envisages a collection rate of 77 percent by 2025 and 90 percent by 2029. The agreement also contains a binding target of at least 25% of recycled plastic for PET beverage bottles from 2025, and 30 percent by 2030.

Furthermore, producers of tobacco filters which contain plastic will have to cover the costs for public collection systems for these items, including the necessary infrastructure such as appropriate waste receptacles in common litter hotspots.

– We’re happy to see that Extended Producer Responsibility schemes will have to pay for these costs. Plastic cigarette filters are one of the most common pieces of litter found in both the marine environment and on land, says Hanna Sjölund, and continues:

– Most cigarette filters contain a large fraction of plastic which break down very slowly. Used filters can also be ingested by marine animals, and contain many toxic chemicals that can be released to water and soil.

On Thursday, December 20, environment ministers from the member states are expected to sign off on the agreed Directive. If the agreement is confirmed by EU ambassadors of member states in the beginning of next year, the directive will be submitted for approval to the European Parliament and then back to the Council for final adoption.

Then, member states will have two years to transpose it into national laws, meaning that the directive will come into force at the beginning of 2021 at the latest.

Hanna Sjölund

Hanna Sjölund

Advocacy and Analysis Officer
hanna.sjolund@su.se