Single-Use Plastics Directive

The Directive (EU 2019/904) on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, better known as Single-Use Plastics Directive, or SUPD, was passed in June 2019 and came into force on 3 July 2021.

The main goal of the SUPD is to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the environment, especially the marine environment. It contains several provisions to reach this goal:

  • An EU-wide ban of specific single-use plastics products
  • A ban of products made from oxo-degradable plastics
  • Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes (EPRs)
  • Consumption reduction of certain single-use plastic items
  • Requirements for beverage bottles
  • Labelling of certain products
  • Awareness raising measures.

The measures that attracted the most media attention were certainly the bans of specific SUP items, such as straws or balloon sticks. The following includes a brief overview of the provisions, the implications the Directive has for the bioplastics industry, and the status of the transposition into national law in the individual Member States.

Overview of the SUPD measures

Bans and Consumption Reduction

The single-use plastic items which are restricted from being placed on the market from 3 July 2021 on can be found in Annex B of the Directive. The selection of items was made according to those plastic items most frequently found on beaches.

These are:

  • Cotton bud sticks, except those for medical use
  • Cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks)
  • Plates
  • Straws, except those for medical use
  • Beverage stirrers
  • Balloon sticks
  • Expanded polystyrene food containers, beverages containers, and cups.

Products already produced for the market may still be sold off or distributed after 3 July 2021 without any deadline.

The SUPD also includes a ban of products made from oxo-degradable plastics. These are defined as “plastic materials that include additives which, through oxidation, lead to the fragmentation of the plastic material into micro-fragments or to chemical decomposition”. Member States shall prohibit their placing on the market.

Member States shall as well take measures to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic cups and food containers, as defined in Annex A. These measures shall achieve a “measurable quantitative reduction” by 2026 compared to 2022. Measures may include national consumption reduction targets, the promotion of re-usable alternatives or marketing restrictions. Member States will have to notify those measures to the EU and report on their compliance.