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EU to stamp down on Single-Use Plastics Directive

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The EU Commission is threatening legal action against 11 Member States who have not transposed the Single-Use Plastics Directive indicating a clamp down on lack of action to tackle the plastics crisis. 

  •  The European Commission is setting a 2 month deadline for plans on adopting the Single-Use Plastics Directive. If not met, a referral to the European Court of Justice with proposed financial sanctions proposed comes next.
  • Legislation banish certain single use plastic items, to cap plastic waste damaging marine life in particular. The Directive aims at reducing plastic litter at sea by at least 50% by 2030.
  • Legislation is also going in the direction of identifying and reporting on plastic in the value chain, which involves corporates. Indeed the Carbon Disclosure Project has announced this week that it will introduce plastic into its reporting requirements.

What is the Directive?

The EU is trying to stem the tide of plastics entering the seas in particular and transform the economy into a circular economy from a singular line of consumption and waste. With the Single-Use Plastics Directive it aims to restrict the use of certain SUP (single use plastics) from being placed on the market. This refers to for example plastic cutlery, straws and cotton bud sticks, beverage stirrers and food and beverage containers made of polystyrene. 

Where there is no alternative (drinking cups including covers and lids, and containers of prepared food for immediate consumption), measures must be taken to reduce consumption of these products. There must also be measures set up for the collection of 90% recycling for SUP plastic bottles by 2029 (with an interim target of 77% by 2025), and for at least 25% recycled plastic in their manufacture by 2025 (for PET bottles), and 30% by 2030 (for all bottles). Other measures concern appropriate labelling for waste disposal, extended producer responsibility and information systems and reporting.

Who are the laggards?

The directive had to be transposed into national law by 3 July 2021, two years after it came into force with some measures given an extension until 2023 and 2024.

The countries that have failed to communicate the measures necessary to ensure the full transposition of the Directive are Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, France, Croatia, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, and Finland.

The Member States concerned have two months to respond with the necessary communication or the European Commission may refer them to the European Court of Justice of the European Union with a proposal to impose financial sanctions.

Denmark and France are also outside the frame of compliance. They had indicated that their transposition was complete, but after analysis, the Commission found that some provisions were missing. They have therefore been issued with formal letters of notice to reply with remedial measures within two months or the Commission will respond.

Call for corporate responsibility on plastics

In other news this week, a group of lawyers and NGOs sent legal letters  to nine major ‘Big Food’ corporations including Nestlé and Danone for failing to tackle plastic pollution in their products.


The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) announced it is to add plastics to reporting frameworks developed with expertise and support from The Pew Charitable Trusts, Minderoo Foundation, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

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