Disposable plastic products: Commission welcomes ambitious agreement on new rules for reducing waste at sea

reducing waste at sea

The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have reached a preliminary political agreement on the ambitious new measures proposed by the Commission for the treatment of marine litter at its source and on the ten plastic products most commonly found on our beaches are geared towards abandoned gear.

The agreement is based on the proposal on disposable plastics presented by the Commission in May as part of the world’s first comprehensive plastics strategy, adopted earlier this year to protect both citizens and the environment from the burden of plastics and growth at the same time and promote innovation. The new rules contribute to the broader effort to facilitate Europe’s transition to a more sustainable circular economy, as reflected in the Circular Economy Action Planfrom December 2015. They will make Europe’s businesses and consumers world leaders in the production and use of sustainable alternatives that prevent waste at sea and ocean pollution, addressing a global impact issue.

Sustainable Development First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “I am very pleased with the ambitious agreement reached today on the Commission proposal to reduce disposable plastic products. This agreement really helps protect our people and our planet. Europeans are aware that plastic waste is a huge problem, and the EU as a whole has shown genuine courage to tackle it, putting it at the top of the list worldwide in the fight against plastic waste in the sea.Equally important, with the solutions we have agreed today, we are also launching a new cycle-oriented business model and demonstrating how our economy can be led on a more sustainable path. ”

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen , responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness , added:  “It is essential to find a solution to the plastic problem. This also opens up new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation. We will discuss these opportunities in depth with the industry as part of the “Alliance for the Plastic Circulation Industry”. The agreement reached today shows that Europe is taking an intelligent economic and environmental decision and is moving towards a truly cycle-oriented plastics industry. ”

Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Policy and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said: “If it gets to the point where you bring your fish home in a plastic bag in a year and a year later, we need to act promptly and decisively. I am therefore pleased with today’s agreement between Parliament and the Council. We have taken a big step forward in reducing the amount of disposable plastic products in our economy, our seas and ultimately our bodies. ”

Different measures for different products

The new EU directive on disposable plastic products will be the world’s most ambitious legal instrument for combating marine litter. It provides various measures for different product categories. If readily available alternatives are available, the placing on the market of disposable plastic products will be banned. This applies, for example, to plastic cotton swabs, cutlery, plates, drinking straws, stirrers and plastic balloons, for products made from oxo-degradable plastics and for food and beverage containers made from expanded polystyrene. For other products, emphasis is placed on curbing their consumption through appropriate action by Member States,

Next Steps

The provisional agreement reached today must now be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council. Once approved, the new Directive will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and Member States will have to transpose it after two years.


This initiative implements the European Plastics Strategy project to tackle plastic waste and its devastating impact through legislative measures. The proposed measures will contribute to Europe’s transition to a circular economy and to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the implementation of EU climate change commitments and industrial policy objectives.

In December 2015, the Juncker Commission adopted an ambitious new circular economy package designed to help European businesses and consumers move to a more stable and circular economy, using resources more sustainably. The package has broken up the silo mentality in the Commission and contributes to general policy priorities by addressing climate change and environmental issues while promoting employment, economic growth, investment and social justice. It was co-chaired by a central project team led by First Vice President Frans Timmermans and Vice President Jyrki Katainenwith the close involvement of Commissioners Karmenu Vella and El?bieta Bie?kowska . Many other Commissioners were also involved in the preparation and helped identify the tools that best cover a wide range of policy areas.

The proposed Directive follows a similar approach to the successful 2015 Plastic Bags Directive, which has led to a rapid change in consumer behavior. The new measures will bring both environmental and economic benefits, eg. B .:

> Avoidance of emissions of 3.4 million tonnes of CO 2 equivalent;
> Avoidance of environmental damage, which would amount to EUR 22 billion by 2030;
> Savings to consumers of an estimated EUR 6.5 billion.

The Directive on disposable plastics will be complemented by other measures to combat marine pollution, such as the Directive on port reception facilities , on which the European Parliament and the Council reached provisional agreement only last week. This Directive concerns ship waste, with a focus on marine waste from sources at sea. It includes measures to ensure that waste generated on ships or collected at sea is always brought ashore and recycled and processed in ports.

The European Commission also launched the ” Plastic Circulation Alliance ” earlier this month , an alliance of the major industrial players covering the entire plastics value chain. It is part of the Commission’s ongoing efforts to reduce littering with plastics, increase the share of recycled plastics and promote market innovation. The aim of the alliance is to improve the profitability and quality of plastics recycling in Europe. In particular, it will better coordinate the supply and demand for recycled plastics. This is the main obstacle to a well-functioning EU market for recycled plastics.

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