New EU rules target ten single-use plastic products

New EU rules target ten single-use plastic products
European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen © European People's Party

The European Commission has introduced new measures against ten single-use plastic products in an attempt to reduce pollution in Europe’s oceans.

Together, the ten single-use plastic products being targeted by the new measures represent some 70% of all marine litter. Plastic pollution in oceans is a growing problem, and tackling it forms a vital pillar of the EU’s recently announced comprehensive plastics strategy.

Among the products in question, those with cost-effective and readily available alternatives will be banned from the market, while for those products where this is not the case, the new regulations will impose limits on their use and introduce new requirements for design of products and management of waste.

What products will be affected?

The commission has chosen the top ten single-use plastic products that compose marine plastic pollution, of which several will be banned outright. These include:
– Balloon sticks;
– Cotton buds;
– Cutlery;
– Drink stirrers;
– Plates; and
– Straws.
Now, these products will need to be made with more sustainable materials, or replaced with alternative products. Further, national consumption reduction targets will apply to food containers and drinks cups, with the option for member states to introduce levies on these products, or developing alternatives.

These products account for around 70% of marine litter in Europe, following a significant reduction in the use of plastic bags following measures against them in 2015. Awareness-raising measures and labelling requirements will also be introduced, to engage citizens in the process.

How will this affect Europe’s plastics industry?

According to European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, the transition towards sustainable alternatives to plastic could allow the EU to become a world leader in developing products which could be in high demand around the world.

He explained: “Single use plastics are not a smart economic or environmental choice, and today’s proposals will help business and consumers to move towards sustainable alternatives. This is an opportunity for Europe to lead the way, creating products that the world will demand for decades to come, and extracting more economic value from our precious and limited resources.”

What’s more, the EU’s efforts to create a circular economy will create new opportunities for the plastics industry, Katainen added: “Our collection target for plastic bottles will also help to generate the necessary volumes for a thriving plastic recycling industry.”


  1. That is absolutely great and long overdue, but is unfortunately not going to make the landslide difference that we need.

    “Two-thirds of the total amount of plastic entering the ocean from rivers comes from the 20 most polluted rivers, fifteen of which are in Asia, in areas with frequent heavy rainfall and dense coastal populations. Rivers in Asia are responsible for 86 percent of input of plastic from rivers into the world’s oceans.

    The top 122 rivers account for more than 90 percent of plastic input from rivers into the ocean and are fed by land that houses 36 percent of the global population. Relatively little plastic waste enters the ocean from North America and Europe because of their more robust waste-management systems.”

    Source: National Geographic (see link)

    If the EC is serious about addressing this problem, they need to follow up this proposal with convincing other countries, in particular the ones with the top 20 most polluting rivers, to do the same.


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