Biodegradable and Compostable Plastic Products

​​The EU issued the Single-Use Plastics Guideline and Banning All Oxo-Degradable Plastics

Jun 09 , 2021
1. What are the main objectives of the Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Directive and its application guidelines?

The Directive (EU) 2019/904 on single-use plastics was adopted in June 2019 and aims to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, in particular the aquatic environment and human health, and to facilitate the transition to a circular economy with innovative and sustainable business models, products and materials. The Directive should be transposed into national law and enter into force on July 3, 2021.

With this directive, the EU is at the forefront of the global fight against marine litter. It also contributes to the Zero Pollution Action Plan and addresses concerns about more sustainability for European citizens.

The original from: Guidance on the application of Single-Use Plastic rules

2. Why is the EU tackling plastic waste?

More than 80% of marine litter is plastic. Plastic accumulates in the oceans and beaches of the EU and around the world. Plastic residues are harmful to marine life and biodiversity and are found in marine species such as turtles, seals, whales, and birds, as well as in fish and shellfish, and finally in the human food chain.

Plastics are convenient, useful, and valuable material, but we need to use them in different ways. When littered, plastics cause environmental damage and have a negative impact on our economy, both in terms of the lost economic value of the material and in terms of clean-up costs and losses in tourism, fisheries, and shipping. Through the European Green Deal, the EU is creating a circular economy in which plastics are used, reused, and recycled in a more sustainable way, without generating waste or pollution.

3. What is the definition of plastics and single-use plastic products under the SUP Directive?

Under the Directive, plastics are defined to include materials consisting of polymers to which additives or other substances may be added and which may be used as the main structural component of the final product, with the exception of natural polymers that have not been chemically modified. The Directive exempts paints, inks, and adhesives from liability. The guidance further clarifies the terms "natural polymers" and "chemically modified" to ensure consistent implementation across the EU.

Disposable plastic products include products made wholly or partly of plastic that is typically used once or discarded after a short period of use. They aim to achieve the goal of protecting the environment and facilitating the transition to a circular economy through innovative and sustainable business models, products, and materials.

4. Does it include biodegradable plastics?

According to the SUP Directive, biodegradable/bio-based plastics are considered to be plastics. Currently, there are no widely agreed technical standards to demonstrate that specific plastic products are suitable for biodegradation in the marine environment within a short period of time and without causing damage to the environment. The Commission plans to develop a policy framework for the use of biodegradable or degradable plastics in 2022, which is based on an assessment that such plastics may be beneficial to the environment, and criteria for the application of such plastics.

5. Which single-use plastic products are affected by the new rules?

These products include cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, balloon sticks, and cups made from expanded polystyrene, food and beverage containers, and all products made from oxo-degradable plastics. Other single-use plastic products, such as fishing gear and wet wipes, limit their use, reduce their consumption and prevent littering. From 2022 onwards, member states are obliged to report fishing gear containing plastic placed on the market and collected at sea.

6. What is the impact of the new crown pneumonia crisis on the use of single-use plastic products?

Certain single-use plastic products have a key and practical role in the current pandemic, particularly in the health, food, and food service sectors. the SUP Directive does not cover personal protective equipment, such as disposable masks or gloves, whose use and the amount of waste in the environment have increased as a result of the fight against the neo-coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, such waste falls under the more general provisions of EU waste legislation, which require proper waste management and prohibit littering.

However, disposable alternatives are still an option under the SUP Directive, as the relevant single-use plastic products (especially food containers) will still be allowed to be placed on the market, while their total consumption will be reduced.
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