Plastic Strategy (EU)

The EU has adopted today (16th January 2018) its first plastic strategy. The press release is here. The Q&A is here.

Next Steps

The new Directive on port reception facilities proposed today will now go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption.

Subject to Better Regulation requirements, the Commission will present the proposal on single-use plastics later in 2018.

Stakeholders have until 12 February 2018 to contribute to the ongoing public consultation.

The Commission will launch the work on the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and prepare guidelines on separate collection and sorting of waste to be issued in 2019.

For the full list of measures and their timeline, see the Annex to the Plastics Strategy here.

A few remarks (in the UK Brexit context)

(1) I posted a few days ago about imminent changes to 6 EU Waste Directives (the EU Circular Economy Package). The new rules will fix a new target of 55% recycling of plastic packaging waste by 2030, set a ban on landfilling separately collected waste and fix stronger arrangements for extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes. It is not announced if the UK will follow this.

(2) The EU Plastic Strategy identifies that by 2030 all plastic packaging should be designed to be recyclable or reusable. To achieve this, the European Commission will work on a revision of the legislative requirements for placing packaging on the market. The revision process will focus on defining the concept of design for recyclability. The goal is to decrease the quantity of waste generated and to avoid that these materials end up as litter, are incinerated or are landfilled where can be recycled. This also includes the issue of over-packaging. It is not announced if the UK will follow this (the commitment in the UK 25-yr environmental plan is to eliminate plastic waste where practicable by 2042).

(3) Microplastics are plastic particles smaller than 5 mm. They end up in the surface waters and the marine environment, either because they are used intentionally in products in order to accomplish a certain function (e.g. microbeads in cosmetics as exfoliating agents) or because they are generated through the breakdown of larger plastic pieces and through the wear and tear of products (e.g. through abrasion of tyres or washing of textiles).

The European Commission has started work to restrict the use of microplastics that are intentionally added in products through the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals regulation (REACH).

Regarding unintentional release of microplastics, the European Commission is examining options such as labelling, minimum requirements for product design and durability, methods to assess quantities and pathways of microplastics in the environment, funding for targeted research and innovation.

The UK Government has brought in Microbeads Regulations applicable in England. I posted earlier about this, and Email Alerts have been sent (if you did not receive an Email Alert, and need the legislation adding to your EHS Legislation and Law Checklists, please let me know).

(4) The EU Plastic Strategy proposes to look into actions to specifically tackle single-use plastic items and other marine litter, including lost or abandoned fishing gear. Preparatory work has started on a legislative initiative on single-use plastics to be tabled by the European Commission, following the approach already used to tackle light-weight plastic bags.

The results of an ongoing public consultation will help determine the measures to be taken. The UK 25-yr environment plan contains proposals on single-use plastics, but not specifically on fishing gear.

(5) A 2015 amendment of the European Packaging and Packaging Directive mandated Member States to address plastic bag use – see article 4(1a) in the Directive itself here. The UK brought in Legislation in all UK jurisdictions (prior to the 2015 Directive amendment being agreed) and recently signalled it would remove the exemptions that were applied in England.

Note : the provisions of article 8a in the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive which relate to the labelling and identification of biodegradable and compostable plastic carrier bags, the implementation period (for Member States) is 18 months from the date of that separate 2017 European instrument.