Support the proposal for a single-use plastics directive.
Widen the scope of the proposal extending it to the entire aquatic ecosystem, including freshwater and shallow sea.
Improve the definitions used by the proposal.
Allow local and regional authorities to introduce more limits to protect the most sensitive ecosystems.
Accept controlled combustion of bottles in absence of suitable alternatives.
Ensure adequate impact assessment and reporting.
Ensure the application of the polluter-pays principle, including for fishing gear.
Obtain incentives and support for SMEs to develop sustainable alternatives.
Restrict import of disposable plastics.
Finance incentives and cleaning up through taxes on import and manufacture of disposable plastics.
Please see below a note highlighting the most significant changes of the final text of the directive in comparison with the line of the CoR opinions. References to "the CoR opinion" concern this opinion, unless further specifications are added.
The main aspects of the original proposal have been kept, coherently with the overall support for the proposal of the CoR opinion that welcomed the proposal asking however for a wider scope (Point 2).
• The new formulation of Art.4 on Consumption reduction measures includes a provision that the measures should be proportionate and non-discriminatory. The same request was made in AM 7 of the CoR opinion. Instead the proposal of the CoR opinion to allow LRA to extend the list of items (for specific reasons in limited areas to protect the most sensitive ecosystems) does not seem to have been included.
• The CoR opinion at Point 21.c indicated that the general reduction targets, especially for serving packaging (packaging used for fast food, e.g. beverage cups, food containers) should be strengthened. The final text adds that covers and lids of cups for beverages are included. For food containers there is only a slight extension of one of the examples in the description.
• The CoR opinion (AM 4) proposed a general extension of the directive to any item left in the environment for any reason and (Point 21.b) proposed wider market restrictions of Single-Use Plastics items with readily available alternatives.
There have been some items added and the general extension of the market restriction to oxo-degradable products and to food containers and drinking cups of expanded polystyrene.
The restriction of the oxo-degradable products was not included in the CoR opinion on Single-Use Plastics but it was included as a more general proposal in the CoR opinion on the Plastics Strategy.
• The CoR proposal to extend the directive to freshwater and shallow seas was not included. The proposal to include sea-life in Art.1 was not included but the final text added two references to marine life.
• In Art.6 on product requirement, the final text adds new specific targets on recycled content for plastic bottles. Point 56 of the CoR opinion on the Plastics Strategy included also the request to introduce a similar, but more ambitious, target more generically for all products.
• The final text includes multiple new references to design. Recital 1, Recital 18 are more general references while Art.8.9 ask the Commission to request to the European standardisation organisations to develop harmonised standards relating to the circular design of fishing gear to encourage preparation for re-use and facilitate recyclability at end of life.
This appears in line with the significance given to design in the CoR opinion (Points 17, 21.f and 25; moreover AM 4 includes design as one of its reasons) and also in the CoR opinion on the Plastics Strategy.
• The target for separate collection of 90% for 2025 (Art.9) of bottles was lowered in comparison with the original proposal (and the position of the Parliament) to 77% while the original 90% target was moved to 2029. The CoR opinion included an amendment on this article that did not modify the proposed target (implicitly accepting it) but making other proposals (not mentioned in the provisional agreement).
• There is a new specific target on recycled content for bottles that was not in the original proposal. This was not mentioned by the CoR opinion but the CoR opinion on the Plastics Strategy proposed an even more ambitious target (and not limited to Single-Use Plastics).
• The proposal of the CoR of cooperation with Local and Regional Authorities for the Awareness raising measures was not included.
• The final text extends the coverage of fishing gear explicitly to abandoned and lost gear, moreover it extends the definition of fishing gear to items or pieces of equipment used for rearing, not just capturing marine biological resources.
The CoR did not include this specific elements in the opinion but AM 4 included a more general request to extend the list of items to all items left in the environment for any reason. Fishing gear was listed separately in the opinion text but it appears that the general line was the extension of the coverage so this modification appears coherent with the CoR position.
• The CoR opinion had proposed to add the CoR among the receivers of the planned evaluation of the directive. This was not included.
• The final text extends significantly the provision on Information (art.13) adding more details, explicitly establishing a system of reporting. The optional implementation act became compulsory. It includes a provision on collecting data on fishing gear containing plastic placed on the market and on waste fishing gear. This seems coherent with Point 18 of the CoR opinion that asks for a digital reporting system for lost gear.
• Recital 9 and Art.2.2 of the final text state that in case of conflict of the new directive with directive 94/62/EC and directive 2008/98/EC, the new directive prevails. The CoR opinion instead included references to the need of coherence with existing legislation (mentioning explicitly directive 94/62/EC and, in one reason box, also directive 2008/98/EC).
• The new Recital 6 includes a statement asking the EU to encourage all producers to limit microplastics and other two references to the problem of microplastics are present. However these elements do not appear to have binding effects. The CoR opinion had limited references to microplastics but the opinion on the Plastics Strategy included a full section on prevention of microplastics.
• For Marking requirements (Art.7) the new text includes in the paragraph on the implementing act the specification that existing sectorial voluntary agreements should be considered. The CoR opinion at Points 20 and 26 includes support for voluntary actions or agreements more in general.
• The new Art.11 includes a new encouragement to use sustainable alternatives for materials in contact with food. This appears consistent with Point 21.c of the CoR opinion.
The final text also slightly extends one of the examples of the description of food containers.
Moreover the market restrictions (ban) have been extended to polystyrene food and beverage containers and to polystyrene cups.
Coherently with the approach of the directive the CoR is leading by example. The CoR cantine is the first cantine of the EU institutions not to use single-use plastics.
The ENVE Commission is eliminating the use of single-use plastics in meetings.
Update: The Communication on the European Green Deal sated that the Commission will develop a regulatory framework for biodegradable and bio-based plastics and will implement measures on single-use plastics. The CoR opinion raised in multiple points the issue of biodegradable and bio-based plastics.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- welcomes the European Commission proposal, while noting that its scope is quite narrow; states that a more holistic approach as envisaged in the EU Plastic Strategy and in the EU Circular Economy Strategy is necessary in the long term to promote the fundamental changes which are necessary to address this problem covering all the environments and that broad policy coherence with the Circular Economy Package is needed;
- calls for the extension of the directive to any disposable non-degradable plastic item and to enlarge it to the entire aquatic ecosystem, including freshwater and shallow sea;
- calls for plastics degradable in aquatic environments, biodegradable modified natural polymers and synthetic polymers not to be defined as "plastic";
- argues that Member States and their local or regional authorities should also be able to limit the use of single-use plastic products other than those listed in the directive to protect the most sensitive ecosystems;
- proposes controlled combustion for beverage bottles when plastic cannot be recovered in other ways at a reasonable cost or where recycling would result in a higher carbon footprint;
- asks for the Committee of the Regions to receive the report evaluating the directive after six years;
- asks the European Commission to present a comprehensive impact assessment clearly outlining the social, economic and environmental implications of the proposed measures;
- calls for better definitions of "plastic" and "single-use plastic product", recommending the definition of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC);
- supports the application of the polluter-pays principle, including for fishing gear and stresses the need to implement new solutions for environmentally safe fishing gear,
- calls for incentives and support measures for more than 50 000 SMEs in the plastics sector to develop sustainable alternatives to non-degradable disposable plastics;
- proposes retailers commitments and voluntary agreements in certain circumstances;
- advocates restrictions to import of disposable plastics;
- emphasises that incentives, support for development and enhanced control, as well as activities for cleaning up disposable plastic waste, should be financed through taxes on the import and manufacture of disposable plastic materials.