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News from Europe

07 June 2018

European Commission: New EU rules to reduce marine litter

With the amount of harmful plastic litter in oceans and seas growing ever greater, the European Commission is proposing new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.

Together these constitute 70% of all marine litter items. The new rules are proportionate and tailoredto get the best results. This means different measures will be applied to different products. Wherealternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from themarket.For products without straight-forward alternatives, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; design and labelling requirements and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers. Together, the new rules will put Europe ahead of the curve on an issue withglobal implications.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development said:

"ThisCommission promised to be big on the big issues and leave the rest to Member States. Plastic waste isundeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plasticwaste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food. Today's proposals will reduce single useplastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures. We will ban some of these items, and substitute them with cleaner alternatives so people can still use their favourite products."

Across the world, plastics make up 85% of marine litter. And plastics are even reaching people's lungsand dinner tables, with micro-plastics in the air, water and food having an unknown impact on their
health. Tackling the plastics problem is a must and it can bring new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation.

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, added:

"Plastic can be fantastic, but we need to use it more responsibly. Single use plastics are not a smarteconomic 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 productsthat the world will demand for decades to come, and extracting more economic value from our precious and limited resources. Our collection target for plastic bottles will also help to generate thenecessary volumes for a thriving plastic recycling industry."

The new rules will introduce:

  • Plastic ban in certain products
  • Consumption reduction targets
  • Obligations for producers
  • Collection targets
  • Labelling Requirements
  • Awareness-raising measures

The Commission's proposals will now go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption. The Commission urges the other institutions to treat this as a priority file, and to deliver tangible results for Europeans before the elections in May 2019.

 To mark the World Environment Day on 5 June, the Commission will also launch an EU-wideawareness-raising campaign to put the spotlight on consumer choice and highlight individual people's role in combatting plastic pollution and marine litter.

 Of course, tackling EU-produced marine litter is only one part of the world-wide picture. But by takingthe lead, the European Union will be in a strong position to drive change at the global level – through the G7 and G20 and through the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

 

Background:

Today's initiative delivers on the commitment made in the European Plastics Strategy to tackle wasteful and damaging plastic litter through legislative action, which was welcomed by the European Parliament and Council and by citizens and stakeholders. The measures proposed will contribute to Europe's transition towards a Circular Economy, and to reaching the UN Sustainable Development. Today's Directive builds on existing rules such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, and Waste Directives, and complements other measures taken against marine pollution, such as under the Port Reception Facilities Directive, and proposed restrictions on microplastics and oxo-degradable plastics. It follows a similar approach to the successful 2015 Plastic Bags Directive, which was positively received and brought about a rapid shift in consumer behaviour.