A missed opportunity? EU Directive cutting single-use plastic items draws EuPC and EUBP criticisms

A missed opportunity? EU Directive cutting single-use plastic items draws EuPC and EUBP criticisms

21 Dec 2018 --- European Plastic Converters (EuPC) and European Bioplastics (EUBP) have vocalized concerns over the specifics of the EU’s provisional agreement to ban 10 types of single-use plastic items as part of its new Plastics Strategy. EuPC believes that the proposal is a “superficial legislative text” which fails to recognize potential environmental consequences and improve waste management. Meanwhile, EUBP is concerned that the Directive fails to acknowledge the potential of biodegradable plastics as part of a more sustainable future.

EUBP fully supports the transition from a linear to a “no-leakage” circular and bio-based economy in Europe. “This directive is a valuable initiative to raise awareness for consumption patterns and tackle marine pollution,” says François de Bie, Chairman of EUBP. “However, it is necessary to combine ambition and proportionality within the directive, so that unnecessary single-use plastics are avoided, while provisions for the circular economy and the EU’s internal market are safeguarded. Biodegradable certified compostable plastics fulfill Europe’s requirements for health and safety and can be recycled organically together with food waste.”

EUBP: General restrictions are excessive
The priority should be the use of multi-use options where feasible, according to EUBP. However, EUBP considers a general restriction of single-use cutlery and plates an excessive move that will create negative consequences in contexts where EU legislation for hygiene and food contact need to be fulfilled, but where no multi-use options can be deployed.

“When implementing the Directive, Member States should envisage the possibility to create limited, efficient exemptions for innovative compostable plastic products that facilitate organic recycling,” says de Bie. 

As boosting organic recycling is a major pillar of the European circular economy, such considerations would support the European Commission’s commitment towards a sustainable circular bio-economy while safeguarding the investments and the jobs created by the European bioplastics industry, according to EUBP.

On a different note, EUBP fully supports the European institutions’ decision to restrict the use of oxo-degradable plastics. Significant evidence suggests oxo-degradable plastics merely fragment into small pieces, contributing to microplastics pollution. In order to ensure the use of biodegradable plastics in the context of a strong European circular economy, EUBP believes that it is important to clearly define the difference between oxo-degradable and biodegradable plastics. The Directive at hand, therefore, needs to provide unambiguous definitions.

EuPC: Directive fails to deliver on the fundamental problems
Meanwhile, EuPC believes that EU politicians have transformed what could have been a great opportunity to implement the Waste Directive’s rationale and to achieve efficient waste management into a “superficial legislative text.” The proposal is based on a poor risk assessment of the possible environmental consequences and will lead to serious barriers to the free circulation of goods in the Single Market, according to EuPC.

EuPC claims that, additionally, no cost-benefit analysis has been conducted for the alternatives that will most likely replace the items that are to be banned or restricted. Therefore, the possible environmental and health and safety aspects have not been considered. Alternative packaging is not necessarily better from an end-of-life point of view. Furthermore, many jobs and production lines for local SMEs will be destroyed. Eventually, this will also result in increased costs for consumers, according to EuPC.

“This Directive is missing a great opportunity to educate our future generations, without going to the root of the problems that Europe has in terms of littering behaviors and controlled waste management,” the EuPC statement reads. “If not plastics, other single-use materials will be littered.”

“The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive diverts from its core purpose and the desired harmonization of all EU Member States is slowly but inevitably disappearing,” says EuPC Director, Alexandre Dangis. “It started with the Plastics Carrier Bags Directive in 2015 and it continues with another discrimination for only one material: plastics.”

“SMEs in Europe are being penalized and jobs will be lost even though everybody knows the pollution is greater in other parts of the world where more action is needed to combat littering. It will be difficult for politicians in the next years to show the added value of the EU institutions towards many of these affected companies and consumers. However, we live in a political world which will hopefully learn from its mistakes but where education is taking for granted as the internet is taking over from our institutions,” adds Dangis.

Against this scenario, EuPC will continue to work with policymakers and NPAs to ensure that environmental sustainability, as well as health and safety of products, are guaranteed. For the above-mentioned reasons, EuPC still urges the Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the Member States to take the time to understand the true implications of such a proposal that is far from ensuring the desired environmental benefits.

By Joshua Poole

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