What is the main objective of the Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Directive and the Guidelines on its application?
Directive (EU) 2019/904 on single-use plastics was adopted in June 2019 with the aim to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, in particular the aquatic environment, and on human health, as well as to promote the transition to a circular economy with innovative and sustainable business models, products and materials. The Directive should be transposed into national law and applied as of 3 July 2021.
Why is the EU tackling plastic litter?
More than 80% of marine litter items are plastics. Plastic accumulates in seas, oceans and on beaches in the EU and worldwide. Plastic residues are harmful to the marine life and biodiversity and are found in marine species – such as sea turtles, seals, whales and birds, but also in fish and shellfish, and finally in the human food chain.
Plastics are a convenient, useful and valuable material, but we need to use them differently. When littered, plastics cause environmental damage and negatively impacts our economy, both in terms of lost economic value in the material, and the costs of cleaning up and losses for tourism, fisheries and shipping. With the European Green Deal, the EU is creating a circular economy where plastics are used in more sustainable ways, re-used and recycled, without creating waste or pollution.
What is the definition of plastic and single-use plastic products under the SUP Directive?
Under the Directive, the definition of plastic includes materials consisting of a polymer to which additives or other substances may have been added, and which can function as a main structural component of final products, with the exception of natural polymers that have not been chemically modified. The Directive exempts paints, inks and adhesives. The Guidelines further clarify especially the terms ‘natural polymer' and ‘chemical modification' to ensure a consistent implementation across the EU.
Single-use plastic products cover products that are made wholly or partly of plastic and are typically intended to be used just once or for a short period of time before they are thrown away. They are targeted in order to achieve the objectives of protecting the environment and promoting the transition to a circular economy with innovative and sustainable business models, products and materials.
Is biodegradable plastic included?
Biodegradable/bio-based plastics are considered to be plastic under the SUP Directive. Currently, there are no widely agreed technical standards available to certify that a specific plastic product is properly biodegradable in the marine environment in a short timeframe and without causing harm to the environment.
As this is a fast developing area, the review of the Directive in 2027 will include an assessment of the scientific and technical progress concerning criteria or a standard for biodegradability in the marine environment applicable to single-use plastic products. In the context of the new Circular Economy Action Plan, the Commission plans to develop in 2022 a policy framework on the use of biodegradable or compostable plastics, based on an assessment of the applications where such use can be beneficial to the environment, and of the criteria for such applications.
For the full questions and answers and to download the full PDF of the guidance, please refer to: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/QANDA_21_2709