The day we've all been waiting for – the EU single use plastic ban

In March 2019, the European Parliament voted in favour of Directive (EU) 2019/904. Why are we talking about a vote from two years ago, which you have never heard of? Because what they really voted for was to ban single use plastic items (some of them for now) and the law will be implemented in just a few days! A very interesting vote after all! The ban will come into effect across the EU from 3 July onwards. So, to help you prepare and understand the law amendment better, we will explain you the which, why, what and how of the plastic ban.

Which items will be banned from July 3, 2021 onwards?

Let’s start with the basics. Here’s the list of single use plastic items which will be banned in EU member states. This means that from July 3, 2021 onwards you will not be able to buy the following plastic single use items in the stores anymore:

  • Single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks)
  • Single-use plastic plates
  • Plastic straws
  • Plastic cotton bud sticks
  • Plastic balloon sticks
  • Oxo-degradable plastics and food containers and expanded polystyrene cups 

Why are we banning these items?

Banning these plastic single-use items is only a part of Directive (EU) 2019/904. The overall plan is to eliminate the ten single-use plastic items most regularly encountered as litter on beaches in Europe. It was decided to focus on these plastic items first because they represent 43% of all the plastic waste which is polluting our seas. According to a European Commission report these 10 items are:

  • Plastic bottles, caps and lids
  • Cigarette filters
  • Cotton bud sticks
  • Crisp packets/sweet wrappers
  • Sanitary applications
  • Plastic bags
  • Cutlery, straws and stirrers
  • Drinks cups and cup lids
  • Balloons and balloon sticks
  • Food containers including fast food packaging

What about single-use plastic bottles?

As you may have noticed, not all of the items on this list will be banned immediately. Are single use plastic drinks bottles at the top of the most polluting items? Yes, they are. Are they part of the plastic ban as of 3 July 2021? No, they are not. The EU says that from the 3rd of July onwards they are banning single-use plastic items that have “easily available and affordable sustainable alternatives”. But does this stop plastic from entering our oceans? To stop the other items from polluting our oceans, they’re taking other measures. But what will those measures be?

In the case of single use plastic bottles: recycling.

At least, that’s the plan. By 2029, EU countries must collect 90% of plastic bottles for recycling purposes and by 2030 PET bottles must contain at least 30% recycled plastic. 

How will you be able to have your picknick without cutlery or a plate?

As mentioned, the banned single use plastic items all have alternatives that are either reusable or made of materials other than plastic. For example, for plates there are alternatives like paper, wood, and palm leaves. For cutlery, there are alternatives like wood, bamboo and soon, wheat….

A fact is that this ban is the perfect opportunity for businesses and individuals to question their (plastic) consumption and how to reduce it. To ask ourselves if we need something in the first place, look for an alternative and most important, remain critical of how sustainable the alternative really is.

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