Analytics, Ecology, Economics, EU – Baltic States, Modern EU

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Tuesday, 16.07.2019, 13:36

Circular economy –new EU rules for plastic waste

Eugene Eteris, European Studies Faculty, RSU, BC International Editor, Copenhagen, 03.04.2019.Print version
First step was made towards tackling marine litter: European Parliament adopted the Commission’s draft to forbid most types of single-use plastic products generally found on European beaches. Besides, the draft lays foundations to a new European plastic economy, where the design and production would fully respect reuse, repair and recycling while more sustainable materials are being developed.

European Commission proposed in May 2018 a draft of the EU rules to ban most often used plastic products: the amounts of harmful plastic litter in oceans, European seas and beaches is constantly growing. Besides, it leads to the loss of fishing stock and abandoned fishing gear.

It has been assessed that 10 most used plastics constitute about 70% of all marine litter items in the European seas; plastics make up 85% of marine litter across the world.

The proposed Commission’s rules are in the form of a directive (as it shows the general EU purpose and the states shall adopt their own measures to tackle the issue) is a follow-up of a previous Commission’s efforts - the successful 2015 Plastic Bags Directive, which brought about a rapid shift in consumer behavior.

The Commission’s draft focuses on limiting the plastics’ use through measures at national level by the member states’ regulations to reduce plastic production and consumption. The national legislation shall aim at plastic designing and labeling requirements, waste management and clean-up obligations for producers and public authorities.


As the result of implemented measures, the states would see the benefits for environmental and economic sectors, e.g. in avoiding emission of 3.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent, in avoiding environmental damages equivalent of €22 billion by 2030, and in saving consumers about €6.5 billion. The new rules will put Europe ahead in the global efforts to combat negative plastic effects in nature and environment.

See more on Commission’s draft in:

On the EU “plastic economy”

Every year, European states generate 25 million tones of plastic waste, but less than 30% is collected for recycling; around the world the situation is even worse...

Besides, plastic particles are even reaching citizens' lungs and food through micro-plastics in air, water and food products having an unknown impact on people’s health. Building on the Commission's past work, the new EU-wide strategy on plastics is expected to make a change.

New Commission’s measures in the EU plastic strategy will transform the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU member states.

Too often the ways plastics are currently produced, used and discarded fail to capture the economic benefits of a more circular approach with serious negative effect on environment. The ultimate directive’s goal is to protect the environment whilst at the same time lay foundations to a new plastic economy, where the design and production fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs while more sustainable materials are being developed.

On EU strategy on plastics, adopted in January 2018 in: Commission press release at:


The EU rules on the “single-used plastics” items and fishing gear, addressing the ten most found items on EU beaches; they are part of the EU plastics strategy - the most comprehensive strategy in the world adopting a material-specific lifecycle approach with the vision and objectives to have all plastic packaging placed on the EU market as reusable or recyclable by 2030.

The new Single-Use Plastics Directive adopted in March 2019 by the European Parliament is an essential element of the Commission's Circular Economy Action Plan as it stimulates the production and use of sustainable alternatives that avoid marine litter.

On single-use plastics rules from December 2018, in:

On the EU circular economy action plan see Commission press release “Closing the loop: Commission delivers on Circular Economy Action Plan”, Brussels, 4 March 2019 in:

Three Commissioners’ opinion

Interesting to follow the conclusions of the three Commissioners, who underlined specific aspects of plastic pollution:

Thus, first Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development underlined that the Parliament’s approval had been “an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in oceans and seas; EU is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world”.

Another Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, added that the new rules when implemented, would not only prevent plastic pollution, but also make the EU a world leader in a more sustainable plastic policy. The Parliament’s adoption played an essential role in laying the policy’s foundation while giving a chance to the industry to innovate, thus driving forward European circular economy.

Commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, Karmenu Vella concluded that the new rules would tackle marine plastic pollution at its source; the task would be to ensure that these ambitious measures are quickly implemented in practice, which will be common work for public authorities, producers and consumers alike.

Citations from:

Tackling marine wastes

The Single-Use Plastics Directive approved by the European Parliament sets ambitious measures to tackle marine litter through the following actions:

  • A ban on selected single-use products made of plastic for which alternatives exist on the market: cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for balloons, as well as cups, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene and on all products made of oxo-degradable plastic.

  • Reduce consumption of food containers and beverage cups made of plastic and specific marking and labeling of certain products.

  • Extended producer’s liability schemes covering the cost to clean-up litter, applied to products such as tobacco filters and fishing gear.

  • A 77% separate collection target for plastic bottles by 2025 and 90% by 2029 with the introduction of design requirements to connect caps to bottles, as well as target to incorporate 25% of recycled plastic in PET bottles as from 2025 and 30% in all plastic bottles as from 2030.


Following the European Parliament’s approval, the Council of Ministers will have to finalize the adoption; final endorsement will be followed by the publication of the texts in the EU’s Official Journal. Afterwards, the EU member states will have two years to transpose the legislation into their national law.

Source: Commission press release at:



Search site