On 27 March 2019 the European Parliament adopted the final text of the draft Directive on the reduction of the use of certain types of plastic products during its plenary session without any further changes to the text. The final version of the directive was agreed during the trialogue negotiations between Parliament and the Council before Christmas last year and then approved by the Environment Committee earlier in January 2019.
Prior to the vote, MEPs discussed their positions, with the majority welcoming the initiative of the European Commission and insisting on continuing to work in the field of plastics – from micro- and nanoplastics to endocrine disruptors in packaging. However, some MEPs share their concerns about the speed of the legislative process, the loss of jobs and the danger of such short-sighted policies that do not take into account other disposable materials, alternatives and the general lack of enforcement by the Member States.
The Directive has been approved by a large majority of MEPs with 560 in favour, 35 not in favour and 28 abstentions. Clearly, the European Parliament has endorsed the proposal and the scope enlargement as earlier negotiated this year. This result comes as no surprise as, since its early stages, many politicians have seen such a topic as an entry pass for the next legislation cycle.
The Single Use Plastics Directive, voted by the European Parliament, aims at combating waste that falls into the sea basins through a set of ambitious measures:
- Prohibition of selected disposable products made of plastic for which there are alternatives on the market: cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, eyepieces, balloon sticks and cups, food and beverage containers made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) and on all products made of oxo-degradable plastics.
- Measures to reduce the consumption of packaging for food products and beverage containers made of plastics and specific labeling of certain products.
- Producers’ incentives to cover waste treatment costs applied to products such as tobacco filters and fishing gear.
- A 90% separate collection of plastic bottles by 2029 (77% by 2025) and the introduction of design requirements for attachment bottle caps, and 25% recycled material in PET bottles from 2025 and 30% 2030 in all plastic bottles.
European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner for Environment, Karmenu Vella were also present. The former has been an enthusiastic supporter of the proposal since the beginning and he declared that the focus on plastics is here to stay. As it is shared by the full spectrum of the Parliament, it will be taken on board by the next Commission and Council.
EuPC, while acknowledging the need for a clean environment and seas, still considers this legislative act and the text flawed, both on merit and on the procedural steps to hurry the overall legislative process.
Unfortunately, such a regulatory act has been adopted that discriminates against material that has a vital role to play in addressing the current global societal challenges over the coming decades. This decision will have a direct negative impact and the loss of thousands of jobs across Europe. This vote requires Member States and citizens to live and change their consumption habits without focusing on what is key, namely education and pollution reduction behavior. Pollution will continue, but with different products. Unfortunately not properly conducted impact assessments or life cycle analyzes have been carried out due to extremely short deadlines due to the wave taken by EU politicians to fight for the so-called “good cause”.
Following the approval of the text of the Directive by the European Parliament, the Council will adopt the text without debate at a future meeting. As originally planned and recommended by the Commission, the publication in the Official Journal of the EU is now expected in April/May 2019, just in time before the European elections.