Europe: New entrepreneurial obligations under the EU single-use plastics directive

Controversial global challenges in environmental protection
The flood of single-use plastic must be stopped. Recently, therefore, the EU directive “on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment” entered into force. As a result, the use of plastics as consumer packaging and goods will change massively in the future. Manufacturers and dealers will clearly be held accountable for the sustainable use of plastics. – What is new?

Ban on marketing
The marketing ban on certain single-use plastic articles and goods made of oxo-degradable plastic has already been much discussed. These include plastic plates, plastic cutlery, balloons, plastic drinking straws and cotton swabs with plastic components. However, certain foamed takeaway packaging will also be withdrawn from the market as of July 2021. Manufacturers must look for alternatives made of bamboo, paper or wood.

Higher product requirements
The product design of single-use plastic products must be modified in such a way that closures cannot escape into the environment individually. As of July 2024, closures and lids must be firmly attached to the container, and PET beverage bottles must contain a so-called “recyclable content” of 25% as of 2025.

Labelling obligation
Balloons, cigarette filters, wet wipes, plastic cups and other articles must be labelled to inform the consumer of appropriate disposal options and of the negative effects of careless discarding.

Obligation to bear costs
In the future, manufacturers are to contribute to the costs of collection, recycling and sensitisation measures.

Manufacturers of plastic consumer packaging are primarily affected by the new requirements of the EU directive.

The entire trade sector will also not escape scot-free. It will be a particular challenge for this sector to remove articles that are no longer marketable in the short term. The logistical effort involved alone makes people sit up and take notice and requires timely precautions.

The Directive requires Member States to introduce appropriate and dissuasive penalties for breaches of the new obligations. These will most likely be fines. The most effective sanctions, however, will certainly be warnings and injunctions from competitors and consumer protectors, who detect banned goods after the respective deadlines.

Author: Heiko Hellwege