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Although the UK has left the European Union, we face the same problems as our European partners when it comes to addressing the problems of single-use plastics and packaging. 

There has been limited activity in the UK, English, Scottish, Welsh & Northern Ireland Parliaments; however, action is imminent and will result in significant changes in the supply of single-use plastics and packaging.

We believe that everyone should be aware of the directives as many of our customers trade in different countries directly affected by the legislation. We also firmly believe the UK will adopt similar principles when it finally addresses single-use plastics and packaging.

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Since 2016 there has been heightened media and public attention regarding the amount of plastic in our oceans, rivers and streams, which has a harmful impact on marine life and the environment in general. The European Union, which has wide and varied coastlines & rivers across its 26 member states, is determined to be Global Leaders in preventing plastic pollution and, in May 2018, acted by publishing the EU Directive on Single-Use Plastics. 

The EU conducted extensive research, which included many beach cleans & surveys across the whole of Europe. The proposal focuses on the 10 most commonly found items, which account for 86% of all single-use plastic items found on beaches and in our rivers, streams and oceans.

The outcome of this is the EU Directive on Single-Use Plastics, a 32-page document proposed on May 28th 2018 and passed on October 24th 2018, by the European Union and implemented in member states in July 2021.

Objectives & Definitions

The EU has stated the following objective for the Directive;

“Prevention & Reduction of plastic marine litter from single use plastic items & fishing gear”

It has clearly defined plastic as;

“Includes polymer based rubber items and bio based biodegradable plastics regardless of whether they derived from biomass and/or are intended to bio degrade over time.”

With the objective and definition of the overall directive clear, the EU then categorised the most commonly found plastic items and set about tackling each with clear objectives;

Category Objective

Items where there are available, sustainable alternatives Promote less harmful alternatives.

Items for which alternatives do not exist Limit damage by better-informing consumers and making producers financially responsible for items that are already captured. Ensure they continue to be or start to be recycled.

To achieve these objectives, the EU has introduced measures that have become law in each member state, the key areas of this being to introduce “market restriction”, which is a ban, clearer “marking requirements” which will make it clearer to consumers on how to dispose of products correctly and “extended producer responsibility” which will introduce additional costs (in the form of a tax) to manufacturers which will cover the cost of the collection, transportation and reprocessing of all litter found on beaches across Europe. The table below summarises the product categories and the proposed measures. In addition, other measures such as consumption reduction, improving product design and putting collection objectives in place are also included.


What does the EU Directive on SUP mean for my customers and me?

This legislation will have wide-reaching implications for all in Foodservice, Hospitality and Catering establishments. For example, in England, a ban was announced on Plastic Straws, which became law in October 2020. 

Materials such as expanded polystyrene (EPS) and all oxy-degradable products will come under the market restriction (banned) category. This means alternative materials and products that can be widely recycled or reusable will become critical for our sector.

Suggested Action Plan

It is important to be aware of the directive and be aware of any amendments that will undoubtedly follow. The EU Directive is designed to change how manufacturers make products and shape consumer behaviour on what they do with the product at the end of its use. The new measures proposed will contribute to Europe’s transition to a more circular economy and to reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  This would suggest more use of products that can be reused and or easily recycled therefore providing your clients with support on advising them of the EU Directive, the implications on them and importantly, solutions that are in line with the directive.

Please, if you wish to learn more, click here.