European Commission proposals to stem the flow of single-use plastics into the continent’s offshore waters have been criticised as misleading and confusing by plastics manufacturers and recyclers.
The commission said it would target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found, plus lost and abandoned fishing gear, which together constitute 70% of marine litter. A consultation will run to 23 July.
But the proposals infuriated the European plastics body EUPC, which includes manufacturers and recyclers. It criticised them for being “a symbolic attack on a category of poorly defined products”.
Under the new rules, single-use plastic products would be banned where alternatives were readily available and affordable. In other cases, their use would be limited through design and labelling requirements as well as waste management obligations for producers.
Commission first vice-president Frans Timmermans said: “Today’s proposals will reduce single-use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures. We will ban some of these items and substitute them with cleaner alternatives so people can still use their favourite products.”
The ban would include plastic products such as cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons
Single-use plastics drinks containers would only be allowed on the market if their caps and lids remain attached.
Member states would have to take measures to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups, while producers would be required to contribute to waste management costs but be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives.
There would be a required to collect 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, for example through deposit refund schemes.
Producers of plastic fishing gear would be required to cover the costs of waste collection from ports, along with transport and treatment.
EUPC said in a statement: “This proposal represents a symbolic attack on a category of poorly defined products which leads to confusion for end users and causes fragmentation of the single market. It contains a definition of single-use products which is misleading and does not reflect industrial classification.”
It alleged the proposal’s impact assessment had been based largely on a study by a consultancy – which it did not name – which had “also worked to support anti-plastics lobbies”.
EUPC director Alexandre Dangis said: “At a moment where the EU Commission is asking the industry to pledge or commit to more use of recycled plastics materials, it is also asking to ban certain recyclable products.
“This is a wrong signal, which will maintain the levels of landfill in the EU that we have today if European waste laws are not properly implemented.”