Currently there is no EU law in place applying specifically to bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics. Yet, the European Union has made increasing efforts to introduce or adapt policies, regulatory frameworks, and standards to strengthen and implement the bioeconomy and circular economy in Europe in recent years, all of which affect the bioplastics sector in one way or other.
In particular, the future policy framework for bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics, as part of the Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan and Green Deal, is a crucial piece of legislation. It has the potential to boost the role of bioplastics in developing a truly circular bioeconomy, enabling innovation, and attracting new investments. Currently, there is no legislation in place at EU level specifically designed for our industry. Hence, the implications of the new policy framework for the bioplastics sector will be extremely important.
European top-level strategies supporting bioplastics:
- EU Bioeconomy Strategy (2018)
- EU Plastics Strategy (2018)
- EU Green Deal (2019)
- New EU Circular Economy Action Plan (2020)
- EU Climate Law (2021) & EU Taxonomy (2020)
- Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive (review 2022)
- Waste Framework Directive (review 2023)
Other relevant policy initiatives include:
- Single-Use Plastics Directive (2019) incl. restrictions on oxo-degradable plastics
- EU rules on recycled plastics for food-contact materials (2022)
- Substantiating claims on environmental performance (2022)
- Sustainable Products Initiative (2022) / Proposal on ecodesign for sustainable products Regulation
- Policy Framework for bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics (2022)
- Sustainable Carbon Cycles (2021)
The European Green Deal (2019) is nothing less than the EU’s committment to making Europe climate neutral by 2050. The plan is to review each existing law, and to introduce new legislation on the circular economy, building renovation, biodiversity, farming, and innovation. The Deal plans to decouple economic growth from resource use, to set ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets (zero net emissions by 2050), carbon pricing mechanisms, and the decarbonisation of the energy system. In the deal, the Commission specifically foresees the adaption of a new Circular Economy Action Plan with strong focus on the plastics sector, especially “sustainable products” and a circular design for all products. However, the Commission should be cautious to not solely focus on mandatory provisions for recycled content, which hampers other innovative pathways of material innovation that help achieve zero net emissions. Alternative sustainable feedstocks such as bio-based feedstocks need to be encouraged as well to reduce dependency on fossil resources.
In 2018, the European Commission adopted the first EU strategy for plastics with the overall aim to contribute to the transition towards a carbon neutral circular economy. It sets goals to curb plastic waste, to increase resource efficiency, and to create value and job growth in Europe. It highlights the importance of biodegradable and compostable plastics in separate collection systems for organic waste to improve clean waste streams and recycling quality.
Furthermore, the Commission’s Sustainable Products Initiative (2022) and the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) proposal will be the cornerstone of EU environmental policy and will have a major impact on product design and market access. Published on 30 March 2022, the proposal builds upon the “Ecodesign Directive” which currently only covers energy related products. The Commission is proposing a general framework as well as sector specific legislation for different product categories. Ecodesign requirements will be adopted through delegated acts for each product group. The Commission will publish a preliminary work plan for the next 3 years, with the timeline for the publication for the Delegated Acts.