EU single-use plastics law: what to expect as governments start weakening agreement

Giant “EU: Stopp Plastik” banner dropped off Graz castle outside meeting of national environment ministers this morning.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brussels, 29/10/2018

After last week’s historic European Parliament vote on single-use plastics [1], national governments across Europe are already starting to weaken the final law. Here’s our look ahead to what to expect and when.

Photo Stunt
This morning, Global 2000/Friends of the Earth Austria dropped a giant banner off Graz castle reading “EU: Stopp Plastik!” Free-to use photos are available here.

Final agreement on single-use plastics law: what’s happening and when?

  • Wednesday 31st October – EU Member States agree final Council text to bring into inter-institutional negotiations
  • Tuesday 6th November – first negotiations between the European Parliament (represented by the rapporteur Frédérique Ries MEP, the Council (represented by the Austrian Presidency) and the European Commission
  • November/December – negotiations continue until final agreement reached
  • Mid-December – European Parliament signs off  final agreement
  • December 20th – (likely) sign off by national Ministers at Environment Council. If it is not signed off, the process may continue into the next Commission in the second half of 2019.

Where will the European Council try to weaken the law?

Based on the latest Presidency text and further intelligence gathering, Rethink Plastic sees the following as the key issues to look out for in the coming weeks:

  • Producers paying for plastic waste: Watch out for the Council trying to keep these schemes voluntary or removing the requirement for producers to pay for the full costs to deal with single-use plastic waste.
  • Single-use plastic bans: Parliament added new items to the ban list – oxo-degradable plastics and expanded polystyrene food containers. The Council is not likely to add any new items but may support the addition of expanded polystyrene food containers. Watch out for the Council delaying the ban on plates that are made from paper with a plastic lining to 2023.
  • Reducing consumption of plastic food containers and cups: The Parliament voted for a 25% reduction in consumption of these items by 2025. The Council may support the development of national targets followed by EU-wide targets, but watch out for the text remaining weak by dropping the target and simply suggesting a “sustained” reduction in consumption.
  • Collection targets for drinks containers: The Parliament stuck to the Commission’s proposal of a 90% collection rate for single-use plastic beverage containers by 2025, but it is looking like the Council is watering this down to 75% by 2025.
  • Is Tetra Pak single-use plastic or not?: (Yes it is.) But watch out for last minute efforts by the Council trying to make Tetra Pak and other “composite” plastics exempt from the law.
  • Connecting the cap: The Parliament bowed to pressure from the drinks industry and introduced a delay of two years for carbonated drinks in single-use plastic bottles have lids permanently attached. It is likely the Council will follow suit.

The Break Free From Plastic movement Europe sent this letter to all Environment Ministers today, outlining our collective demands for the negotiations.



[1] European Parliament takes historic stand against single-use plastic pollution >>


Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe on behalf of Rethink Plastic
[email protected] / +32 483 65 94 97

Paul Hallows, communications officer at Friends of the Earth Europe
[email protected] / +32 (2) 893 10 10

Michael Lachsteiner, press officer at GLOBAL 2000/Friends of the Earth Austria
[email protected] / +43 699 14 2000 20

Rethink Plastic