EU Reaffirms Commitment to Single-Use Plastics Ban - Despite COVID-19

May 4, 2020
EU Reaffirms Commitment to Single-Use Plastics Ban - Despite COVID-19

Quick summary:

  • EU ban on single-use plastic still set for 2021, despite pressure to delay due to COVID-19.
  • UK restrictions, originally planned for April, postponed until October
  • According to the EU’s research, single-use plastic constitutes 50% of all marine litter

The European Union has reaffirmed its commitment to a 2021 deadline for a continent-wide ban on single-use plastics (SUP), despite requests from the European Plastics Converters (EuPC) industry association for a delay due to the Coronavirus crisis.

“The Commission’s position continues to be that deadlines in EU law have to be respected”, Vivian Loonela, the EU Commission spokesperson for environmental matters, stated, according to Euractiv. “Member states will still have one year to transpose the SUP Directive in national law”.

According to the original directive, published in June 2019, 80 to 85% of marine litter is plastic, with 50% of the total being single-use. With 25 million tonnes of plastic being produced by EU states every year, the Commission’s intention is still to reduce the environmental impacts of the material – despite the COVID-19 crisis.

EuPC had hoped that the ban would be delayed

However, citing hygiene issues surrounding single-use plastic and Coronavirus, EuPC had hoped that the ban would be delayed for a further year.

“Today and tomorrow we are and will be in a completely different world where hygiene and consumer health will be the number one priority for all of us”, EuPC had written, in an open letter to the Commission.

Whilst the EuPC had noted the importance of single-use plastic for “food contact materials, protective equipment, medical devices, and medicines”, the Directive explicitly excludes a ban on SUP for health purposes.

The EU Commission’s statement comes as the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) confirmed that the country’s respective ban will be delayed until October 2020. Originally scheduled for April 2020, DEFRA cited COVID-19 as the reason for the delay.

“Given the huge challenges posed to businesses by coronavirus, we have confirmed we will delay the introduction of our ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds until October 2020,” a DEFRA spokesperson said.

“We remain absolutely committed to turning the tide on the widespread use of single-use plastics and the threat they pose to our natural environment.”

According to the UK government’s figures, 4.7 billion plastic straws are used annually in England alone.  

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