By Paul A. Davies and Michael D. Green

The Parliament voted in favor of a single-use plastics ban and added its own amendments.

Plastics continue to face widespread regulatory attention in the EU. The European Commission (the Commission) released its Plastics Strategy in January 2018 and built on that effort with a proposed ban on 10 single-use plastics in May 2018 (a number of Member States have proposed similar national initiatives). The Commission’s proposals are currently the subject of the EU’s legislative procedure, which includes a review by the European Parliament (the Parliament). The Parliament is looking to materially extend the banned list.

The Commission’s May 2018 proposals include:

  • Banning plastics in certain products (such as cotton buds, straws, cutlery, plates, etc.)
  • Creating consumption-reduction targets for food and drink containers
  • Imposing obligations on producers in relation to the costs of waste management and building awareness
  • Implementing collective targets for single-use plastic bottles
  • Imposing standardized labeling concerning the presence of plastics, their negative environmental impact, and how such waste should be disposed
  • Developing awareness-building measures

The Commission’s proposals are now the subject of review by EU institutions. In particular, the Parliament has voted 571 to 53 to add obligations to the Commission’s proposal and make them even more stringent.

The Parliament’s amendments include:

  • Extending the ban to include a prohibition on expanded polystyrene packaging and oxo-degradable plastic bags
  • Extending producer responsibility rules to include fishing gear and cigarette butts
  • Implementing 25% reduction targets by 2025 for plastic products that currently have no alternative (such as burger boxes and containers for fruits and vegetables)

Notably, the Parliament’s amendments did not include a ban on lightweight plastic bags, which some NGOs had called for.

The Commission’s proposals, as amended by the Parliament, will be the subject of discussion by individual Member States and negotiation among the Commission, the Parliament, and the EU Council in November. A number of Parliament members want the legislation finalized by the end of 2018.

Food and drink and packaging manufacturers have lobbied extensively against the Commission’s proposals. These efforts will likely be redoubled as the legislation reaches its final stages of negotiations.