EU bans single use plastics, packaging industry expresses concern

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MEPs overwhelmingly voted for the ban on 24 Oct

The European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN) has welcomed a sweeping ban on single-use-plastics (SUP) by the European Parliament, but voiced concern over certain elements which it said “have not been adequately examined”.

The members of the European Parliament (MEPs) overwhelmingly voted for a directive on 24 Oct which will ban items such as disposable plastic plates, plastic straws and cotton swabs by 2021.

Under the directive submitted by the European Commission at the end of May, further recycling measures will be taken across the region to ensure that 90% of plastic bottles are recycled by 2025.

While welcoming the harmonised action to address the plastic waste problem, EUROPEN said it regretted the removal of internal market safeguards for SUP measures, which include packaging items.

“This will weaken policy coherence with other EU rules on waste and packaging,” EUROPEN said in a 24 Oct statement.

The directive, according to previous EUROPEN statements, does not reflect the principles of ‘better regulation” and offers differing legal interpretations at EU and national level.

For instance, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) has Article 114 TFEU on ‘internal market’ as its legal basis to protect the free circulation of packaged goods in the EU. The legal basis for the SUP ban, however, is Article 192 TFEU on environmental protection. 

“The PPWD with its harmonised ‘essential requirements’ should remain the sole appropriate legislation governing design and marking requirements applicable to all packaging,” explained Virginia Janssens, EUROPEN managing director. 

“Likewise", she added, “The Waste Framework Directive should remain the only legal text to address producers’ extended responsibility, in line with nationally-defined roles and responsibilities of players. Incentives should be placed on all value chain partners, based on what each actor can control, to ensure cost-effective results. This should be no different for measures related to litter clean-up.” 

According to EUROPEN chairman Hans van Bochove, the lack of legal clarity will undermine significant investments made throughout the years in the packaging supply chain, the collection and sorting of wastes.

“Legal clarity is essential to underpin these investments, but is lacking in this instance, for example with regard to which packaging falls under the SUP scope and which not. In addition, design requirements with significant impact such as the tethered caps proposal should be based on established facts and a thorough impact assessment,” he noted.

EUROPEN has called on the EU’s legislators to “take the time to evaluate carefully the real impacts of the legislative proposal on SUP to ensure it delivers the intended environmental objectives in a harmonised EU Internal Market.”

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