Europe must up its game on plastic legislation

European nations have been told they need to act urgently on the use and disposal of single use plastics in a hard hitting report released today.

The Rethink Plastic alliance and the Break Free From Plastic movement have released two reports, an assessment of policy measures adopted by EU countries to phase out single-use plastic and a catalogue of best practices that can be replicated or scaled up to support the transition.

They come just days before EU nations are due to adopt tough new laws in the use and treatment of single use plastics.

Frédérique Mongodin, Senior Marine Litter Policy Officer At Seas At Risk said: “Single-use plastic is the symbol of today’s throw-away society and phasing them out constitutes an obvious first step to fight plastic pollution. Yet we cannot rely on the sole political will of national governments. We need bold and effective actions from across society to drive a wave of change. The solutions we have collected are meant to inspire new ways of living and consuming that are more respectful of our ocean, our planet and ourselves.”

The reports highlighted that further ambition is urgently needed and come as the period for EU Member States to transpose the Single Use Plastics Directive comes to an end on Saturday.

The Single Use Plastic Implementation Assessment differentiates between top performers (highlighted in green) and Member States lagging behind (in orange and red) in implementing the mandatory EU measures to curb plastic pollution.

Estonia, France, Greece, and Sweden are examples of countries on a strong track for the implementation of the Directive, while Bulgaria and Poland are just some of many Member States which need to urgently scale up their efforts.

Gaëlle Haut, EU affairs project manager at Surfrider Europe said: “The effective and complete transposition of the Single-Use Plastic Directive is still missing in many EU countries. The measures laid down in the Directive are minimum requirements to be achieved and built upon. To achieve the 50% reduction target of plastic litter at sea, it’s urgent all these measures are transposed and enforced. Best performing States are showing that, with political will, great ambition and timely transposition can go hand in hand”.

While the level of ambition varies significantly across EU Member States, it remains overall insufficient to ensure Europe actually moves away from single-use and towards a circular economy.

The Seas at Risk Best Practices report and interactive multilingual map, link EU policy measures with effective and concrete solutions, offering over 150 best practices to reduce and phase out single use plastics. The provided solutions have already proved to be effective, easy to replicate in other regions or to develop on a wider scale. They aim to encourage public authorities, businesses, schools, local communities and consumers to reduce single-use plastics and support Member states in implementing the Directive and go beyond.

“To curb plastic pollution, the EU adopted in 2019 the Single-Use Plastics Directive that requires EU countries to implement a number of measures including: banning several single-use plastic items, including plates, straws and cutlery, by 3 July 2021; putting in place extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes and single-use plastics marking requirements; adopting measures to achieve consumption reduction for single-use plastic cups and food containers; and by 2029, achieving 90% separate collection on single-use plastic bottles,” the report stated. “Based on the assessment of European and national NGOs, the first report released today reveals the performance of all EU Member States plus Norway in transposing the Single-Use Plastics Directive into their national law.”

Larissa Copello, Consumption and Production Campaigner at Zero Waste Europe added: “Half-hearted measures, such as material substitution or cosmetic legislative change, will not allow to achieve a truly circular economy across Europe. It is urgent to redesign both products and distribution systems, and decision-makers can drive this systemic change by adopting a combination of measures such as consumption reduction targets, reuse quotas, harmonised packaging formats and deposit return schemes.

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