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Single-use plastics
The EU is tackling the 10 single-use plastic items most commonly found on Europe’s beaches, and is promoting sustainable alternatives.

Main law: Directive on single-use plastics

Entry into force: 2 July 2019

Connected topics: Circular economy Plastics Sustainable development Waste and recycling

Connected strategies: Circular economy action plan Plastics strategy

Connected Commission priorities: European Green Deal

Single-use plastic products (SUPs) are used once, or for a short period of time, before being thrown away. The impacts of this plastic waste on the environment and our health are global and can be drastic. Single-use plastic products are more likely to end up in our seas than reusable options. The 10 most commonly found single-use plastic items on European beaches, alongside fishing gear, represent 70% of all marine litter in the EU.

The EU aims to become a forerunner in the global fight against marine litter and plastic pollution. EU rules aims to reduce the volume and impact of certain plastic products on the environment.

Through the EU’s Directive on single-use plastics, different measures are being applied to different products. These measures are proportionate and tailored to get the most effective results, and also take into account if more sustainable alternatives are available.

The 10 items being addressed by the Directive are

Cotton bud sticks
Cutlery, plates, straws and stirrers
Balloons and sticks for balloons
Food containers
Cups for beverages
Beverage containers
Cigarette butts
Plastic bags
Packets and wrappers
Wet wipes and sanitary items

Where sustainable alternatives are easily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from 3 July 2021. This ban will apply to cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, and sticks for balloons. It will also apply to cups, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, and on all products made of oxo-degradable plastic.

For other single-use plastic products, the EU is focusing on limiting their use through

reducing consumption through awareness-raising measures
introducing design requirements, such as a requirements to connect caps to bottles
introducing labelling requirements, to inform consumers about the plastic content of products, disposal options that are to be avoided, and harm done to nature if the products are littered in the environment
introducing waste management and clean-up obligations for producers, including Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes
Specific targets include

a 77% separate collection target for plastic bottles by 2025 – increasing to 90% by 2029
incorporating 25% of recycled plastic in PET beverage bottles from 2025, and 30% in all plastic beverage bottles from 2030
EU rules on single-use plastic products aim to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, in particular the marine environment, and on human health.

They also aim to promote the transition to a circular economy with innovative and sustainable business models, products and materials, therefore also contributing to the efficient functioning of the internal market.

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