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EC’s Initiatives Relating to the Implementation of the Single-Use Plastics Directive

On June 2, 2019, the European Parliament and Council adopted the Single-Use Plastics Directive, (EU) 2019/904, on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. The following month, in July 2019, the European Commission (EC) and its Directorate-General Environment (DG ENV) launched the "Study to support the development of implementing acts and guidance under the Directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment.” This study is intended to support the EC in its implementation of the Directive. The study is being carried out by a group of consultants led by Ramboll Deutschland GmbH. It will run for 18 months and is expected to finish in January 2021.

In short, the Single-Use Plastics Directive notably bans as from July 3, 2021, the use of certain single-use plastic products, which are considered as the most found as marine litter, such as cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks), plates, straws, beverage stirrers, certain food and beverage containers, as well as cups made of expanded polystyrene and products made from oxo-degradable plastics. It requires for beverage containers of up to three litres to be permitted on the EU market as from July 3, 2024, that they have their plastic caps and lids attached to the container during the product’s intended use stage. The Directive calls for the adoption of European standards in this regard. 

The Commission Implementing Decision of November 28, 2019 on a standardization request to the European Committee for Standardization as regards certain single-use plastic beverage containers with a capacity of up to three liters that have caps and lids made of plastic in support of Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council. It requires the European Committee for Standardization to draft a new harmonised standard regarding certain single-use plastic beverage containers with a capacity of up to three litres that have caps and lids made of plastic by August 31, 2022. Moreover, the Directive establishes a minimum recycled content requirement for PET beverage bottled (up to 3 litres) that must be met within a specified timeline. It sets provisions for the separate collection of beverage bottles (up to 3 litres) for recycling also with specific timelines. The Directive further lays down marking provisions for the labelling of certain single-use plastics. In addition, it calls for Member States to take national measures on the extended producer responsibility schemes for certain single-use plastics, such as certain food containers and cups for beverages including their covers and lids. There are some provisions which concern tobacco products such as marking provisions that apply to tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products.

The Directive calls for the European Commission to adopt guidelines to provide guidance on the categories of products covered by the Directive.

Guidelines concerning 

Deadline

Single-use plastic products including examples of what is to be considered a single-use plastic product for the purposes of this Directive

By 3 July 2020

Criteria on the costs of cleaning up litter

Not specified

The Directive also calls for the EC to adopt a certain number of implementing acts. 

Implementing acts concerning

Deadline

Methodology for the calculation and verification of the ambitious and sustained reduction in the consumption of the single-use plastic products listed in Part A

By 3 January 2021

Rules for the calculation and verification of the minimum recycled content targets

By January 2022

Harmonised specifications for marking

By 3 July 2020

Methodology for the calculation and verification of the separate collection targets

By 3 July 2020

Format for reporting data and information on:

  • data on single-use plastic products listed in Part A of the Annex that have been placed on the market of the Member State each year, to demonstrate the consumption reduction in accordance with Article 4(1)

  • information on the measures taken by the Member State for the purposes of Article 4(1)

By 3 January 2021

Format for reporting data on:

  • data on single-use plastic products listed in Part F of the Annex that have been separately collected in the Member State each year, to demonstrate the attainment of the separate collection targets in accordance with Article 9(1)

  • data on fishing gear containing plastic placed on the market and on waste fishing gear collected in the Member State each year

By 3 July 2020

Format for reporting data on:

  • information on recycled content in beverage bottles listed in Part F of the Annex to demonstrate the attainment of the targets laid down in Article 6(5)

  • data on the post-consumption waste of single-use plastic products listed in Section III of Part E of the Annex that has been collected in accordance with Article 8(3)

By 1 January 2022

To support the EC in determining what products should be regarded as single use plastic, a first survey was run as Phase 1. The Phase 1 survey was divided into two parts: Part 1 focused on general and product specific definitions, explanations, criteria, and Part 2 dealt with product markings. The Phase 1 survey was conducted in September/October 2019. Additionally, Ramboll had conducted stakeholder workshops in October and November 2019. The preliminary outcome of the first phase of the survey shows that many terms used in the Single-Use Plastics Directive are not well-understood, such as the difference between a “beverage container” and a “beverage bottle,” or what is meant by “packets and wrappers.” A second workshop is scheduled to take place in March 2020 where Ramboll will present the outcome of its review. The labelling of single-use plastics has also stirred a large debate amongst stakeholders. The selected marking options will be tested with consumers. This consumer survey is supposed to last six months and will be run by a separate contractor. A follow-up workshop dedicated to marking is intended to take place in May 2020.

The second survey (Phase 2) under this project has recently been announced and is open until January 10, 2020. The second survey can be found on Ramboll’s website.

The second survey focuses on the following issues:

  • Single-use plastic beverage bottles:

    • Methodologies for calculation and reporting of separate collection targets.

  • Tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products:

    • Formats for reporting on post consumption waste.

  • Single-use plastic food containers and cups for beverages:

    • Methodologies for calculation and reporting of consumption reductions;

    • Reporting formats on measures taken by member states to achieve consumption reductions of such products.

  • Existing practices related to litter:

    • Existing collection systems in public spaces, litter clean-up activities, awareness raising measures.

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLP

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