EU agrees big cuts to single-use plastics despite stalling tactics by industry

After months of negotiations, the European Union has agreed new legislation to slash single-use plastics.

plastic dragon brussels

Campaigners from the Rethink Plastic and Break Free from Plastic alliances celebrate the vote in Brussels

The move is a significant step forward in tackling plastic pollution but does not fully address the urgency of the plastics crisis, according to the Rethink Plastic and Break Free from Plastic alliances, of which we are a member.

“This an excellent step forwards towards a world of cleaner oceans and, despite industry interests working behind the scenes to water the legislation down, the EU has nevertheless still made an advance in the fight against plastic pollution which should inspire other countries to follow suit,” said Sarah Baulch, our Senior Ocean Campaigner.

Meadhbh Bolger, on behalf of Rethink Plastic, added: “The EU deserves praise for being the first region to introduce new laws to reduce single-use plastics and slash plastic pollution in our fields, rivers and oceans.

“What’s less laudable is that the plastics lobby – backed up by some governments – was able to delay and weaken the ambition. Citizens across Europe want to see an end to our throwaway culture and politicians have taken the first step. The time is ripe for Europe to transition away from single-use plastics to reusables.”

The final measures adopted include:

  • bans on several single-use plastic items including plates, cutlery and expanded polystyrene food containers and beverage cups;
  • ensuring manufacturers pay for waste management and clean-up of several single-use plastic items, including cigarette butts and fishing gear;
  • EU member states to set national collection targets for fishing gear.

However, the agreement falls short of what is needed to fully tackle the plastics crisis in key areas, including:

  • no binding EU-wide target to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic food containers and cups, and no obligation for EU countries to adopt reduction targets;
  • a delay of four years, from 2025 to 2029, on ensuring 90 per cent of plastic bottles are collected separately.

“The new laws are a significant first blow to the plastic pollution monster,” said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European Coordinator of Break Free from Plastic. “However, their impact depends on the implementation by our national governments who must immediately adopt ambitious targets to cut single-use plastics and ensure producers pay for their pollution.”