After twelve hours of trilogue negotiations, representatives of the EU Commission, the EU Parliament and the Austrian Council Presidency reached an agreement on the specifics of the single-use plastics ban in the early morning of 19 December 2018.
The ban is intended to reduce the huge plastic pollution of the environment and of our oceans. It is estimated that the share of plastic waste accounts for 80-85 percent of “maritime littering”. Single-use plastics account for 50 percent of the plastic waste found on European beaches (the ten most common types of products making up 86 percent of this amount).
As from 2021, products for which more sustainable and plastic-free alternatives are available will be banned, among them cotton beads, plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks as well as food packaging, beverage containers and beverage cups from expanded polysterene (EPS). Products made from “oxo-degradable” plastics will be banned altogether. Moreover, the use of products for which no good alternative is yet available, like plastic cups and food packaging, is to be significantly reduced.
Beverage containers will only be allowed on the market if their caps and lids remain attached. This rule will become effective five years after the entry-into-force of the Single Use Plastics Directive. Specific throwaway products containing a certain amount of plastics will need to bear a marking on their packaging which informs consumers about the harmful impact on the environment. This concerns hygiene pads, drinking cups, wet wipes, and tobacco products with filters.
Furthermore, producers of such plastic products are to pay a contribution to the cost of collecting their littered products and the recovery of their products in the future. Another point of agreement are collection rates: For disposable plastic bottles a collection rate of 77 percent by 2025 and of 90 percent by 2029 is planned (presently Austria has a collection rate of slightly below 73 percent).