EU & marine litter

EU & marine litter

On June the 5th , the European Parliament approved Directive 2019/904 concerning the reduction of certain plastic products, which are mostly present among the waste abandoned along the Union coasts and polluting sea. The rule comes into force 20 days after publication, ie by the end of June.

The norm highlights how plastic materials are an omnipresent material in everyday life, being essential in many sectors. In particular, plastic is used in many daily contexts: then there are not rules for a correct re-use and recycling, ending up with a significant increase in marine litter.

The objective of the Directive is to promote in the Member States approaches that “give priority to sustainable and non-toxic re-usable products and re-use systems rather than to single-use products, aiming first and foremost to reduce the quantity of waste generated”. This compares with the data that shows 80-85% of marine litter, abandoned on the beaches, consisting of plastic objects, of which 50% are single-use products and 25% are products for fishing.

This directive fits into the European plan that aims to reach the goal of 2030 with all plastic packaging placed in the EU ” re-usable or easily recycled“.

If there are no adequate and safe alternatives, UE Members must introduce regulations that recall the responsibility of the producers to contribute effectively to the consequent management of the removal of the resulting waste. There are often inefficient litter collection systems with little citizen participation: it will therefore be important to improve and implement adequate educational policies to make the user aware of the correct disposal of these types of waste.

For disposable plastic products, adequate “…conspicuous, clearly legible and indelible marking” must be provided, to be evident to the consumer:

Appropriate waste management options for the product or waste disposal means to be avoided for that product;

The presence of plastics in the product and the resulting negative impact of littering or other inappropriate means of waste disposal of the product on the environment.

Among the products that are subject of this regulation we find those made of expanded polystyrene:

Food containers, i.e. receptacles such as boxes, with or without a cover, used to contain food which is intended for immediate consumption, either on-the-spot or take-away, or is typically consumed from the receptacle, or is ready to be consumed without any further preparation, such as cooking, boiling or heating;

Beverage containers…, including their caps and lids;

Cups for beverages…, including their covers and lids.