The European Commission recently presented an ambitious new directive to tackle marine litter by introducing a number of measures, including reduction and restriction of selected single-use plastic products, such as disposable balloon sticks, straws, cutlery, plates, cups and food containers. That has the European plastics industry in an uproar.
The European Plastics Converters (EuPC) sent out a press release saying that it “regrets that the European Commission has put forward the proposal for a directive” targeting certain plastic products to reduce their impact on the environment. The proposed directive is taking aim at single-use plastics and fishing gear. “The proposal represents a symbolic attack on a category of poorly defined products, which leads to confusion of end users and causes fragmentation of the single market,” said the EuPC. “It contains a definition of single-use products that is misleading and does not reflect industrial classification.”
The use of a directive is intended to prevent a “fragmented legal landscape” throughout the EU. However, the EuPC’s statement noted that, in the case of the ban on plastic carrier bags, just the opposite has happened, with some member states implementing “Bags Directive” rules at their own discretion, “leading to a proliferation of rules and labeling requirements.”
Noting that the proposed solutions “do not match the existing rationale of the Plastics Strategy and the Voluntary Commitments put forward by the plastics industry backed by the Commission itself,” the EuPC points out that on the one hand the Commission calls for life cycle assessments (LCAs) “in order to truly assess best environmental options” and, on the other hand, “restricts or bans certain products made of plastic without analyzing which option would be the most sustainable.”
Even the bioplastics industry is a bit concerned about this proposed directive, fearing that bioplastic products might get caught up in the ban wagon without a careful definition of plastics or products or consideration of the consequences. “The proposal is a meaningful addition to existing legislation and strategies; unfortunately, however, it remains vague regarding sustainable alternatives,” stated François de Bie, Chairman of European Bioplastics (EUBP).
According to the EUBP, the potential positive impacts of already introduced measures in the revised EU waste legislation need to be assessed first; additional actions should be based on those previous efforts and “tie in” with them to result in better regulation. “The proposal specifically foresees the substitution of currently used single-use products by ‘readily available, more sustainable materials,’” but finding these substitutes may not be possible.