Friends of the Earth Europe are moving on

Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) have made an invaluable contribution to the work of the alliance over the past three years, and their departure will be a loss both in the quality of work they provided, and their expertise. FoEE were dependable colleagues who were always a pleasure to work alongside.

For FoEE, this decision came as part of a strategic move to no longer work on plastics. In light of the COVD-19 pandemic FoEE re-evaluated their priorities as an organisation to focus on key areas where they felt they could make the most impact. Given the strength of the Rethink Plastic alliance, FoEE considered that they might make a more useful contribution to other areas of the climate and resource crises.

Their departure from the Rethink Plastic alliance was not an easy decision, yet the process was smooth thanks to open and collaborative discussions both internally in FoEE and with the coordination team at the Rethink Plastic alliance. 

Goingforwards, FoEE will remain a member of the #breakfreefromplastic movement but will no longer be a member of the Rethink Plastic alliance (the EU policy arm of the movement). 

Their contribution and guidance will be missed, but the Rethink Plastic alliance will continue to fight towards a future free from plastic pollution with the same strength and expertise as ever. 

To see future Friends of the Earth Europe work you can visit their website here.

#BreakFreeFromPlastic midway assessment of EU countries transposition of single-use plastics Directive

Adopted in 2019 by the European Union, the Directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, more commonly known as the single-use plastics (SUP) Directive, requires EU Member States to adopt a number of measures to reduce the use of, and pollution from, single-use plastics most commonly found in the environment. EU countries have 2 years, (until July 2021), to transpose the EU Directive into their national law and adopt measures to ensure successful implementation of the Directive. 

The Directive notably sets EU wide bans on certain SUP (e.g. plates and cutlery, straws and stirrers, cotton buds, cups and food containers in expanded polystyrene) and also requires EU countries to:

  1. Reduce the consumption of single-use plastic cups and food containers in their country, by putting in place specific bans or quantitative reduction targets.
  2. Establish Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes for some packaging (e.g. wrappers and packets, bags) as well as for wipes, balloons and tobacco products, so as to ensure producers cover the cost of collection, treatment, awareness-raising and clean-up. 
  3. Achieve 90% separate collection of single-use plastic bottles by 2029,
  4. Establish new markings on cups, tobacco products, wet wipes and menstrual items to indicate the presence of plastics, the appropriate means of disposal and the impacts on the environment when not properly disposed of.

Our analysis of the situation in 19 countries shows that only a few countries have adopted measures to transpose the Directive and fight plastic pollution resulting from single-use plastics. In many countries, the transposition process has not started and/or little information is available on the expected transposition process. Several countries have started to transpose the easiest part, e.g. the EU wide bans set in the Directive, but have yet to adopt key measures that will actually determine the level of ambition and the resulting environmental benefits on the ground. While there is still a long way to go, there are a few countries leading the way – now we need others to follow suit. 

Break Free From Plastic calls all EU countries to adopt ambitious measures to move away from single-use plastics, including further bans, quantitative reduction targets, strong EPR schemes with eco-modulation, promotion of sustainable alternatives to SUP and DRS for beverage containers to ensure high collection rates and reduce pollution. EU countries should refrain from granting exemptions to bio-based and biodegradable plastics, that are covered under the same umbrella as conventional plastics in the Directive and are not a solution to plastic pollution. Instead, they should focus on supporting reusable alternatives, which are widely available and blossoming. 

Detailed Member State Assessment (alphabetical order in English under each category) 

Below is our preliminary assessment of 19 Member States transposition of the SUP Directive. This includes various information sources accessed through the movement, and organised into the following categories: 

For a more detailed analysis on some of the Member States (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands and Hungary), you can also check out the recent news article from Seas At Risk in addition to the information below.

(1) French Law on Circular Economy:

(2) Strong Pressure From Industry:

Deplorable moves from the industry: exploiting COVID-19 to turn back time and perpetuate plastic pollution!

For the plastic industry to mobilise fallacious ‘scientific’ arguments as well as to use delaying and blocking tactics to weaken EU legislation and its implementation is not a new practice. To use a life threatening pandemic that is affecting people across the world to protect their financial interests, that is new! It is also both irrelevant and scientifically unfounded.

Last year, the EU adopted one of the most supported pieces of legislation to respond to the growing pollution in the environment and the ocean by single-use plastics. In ongoing discussions to prepare guidelines for all Member States to implement this legislation, the plastic and packaging industry has been pushing to introduce delays and exemptions and water down the ambition of the measures on single-use plastics. Now, the industry is  bringing arguments relating to COVID-19 to the mix. They argue to postpone the implementation, and even remove some of the new laws, claiming that single-use plastics are more hygienic, invoking in particular their role in the healthcare sector. 

While plastic may have essential uses, notably in the health sector, none of those applications are covered by the EU single-use plastics laws. Indeed, the Directive on single-use plastics does not cover medical equipment and even foresees the explicit exclusion of any of the items listed that would be used for medical purposes. The European Commission clearly stated that deadlines for the implementation of the Directive have to be respected. 

It is interesting to see that even in the health sector, efforts are growing towards reusable alternatives for respirators and face masks. The current stock scarcity many countries are having to deal with, proves that reusables could be a solution even for the health sector

While some shops and chains have temporarily stopped accepting reusable cups and containers from consumers, with the underlying objective being to protect their employees as much as possible, overall single-use containers have not been proven to be safer than reusable alternatives. The virus can live on both for a certain period of time, but not necessarily for any longer on one than on the other. Recent studies have shown that the virus can stay active on plastics for up to 72 hours – longer than on many other materials

In addition, single-use (plastic) packaging has often been transported and manipulated several times before reaching shelves and consumers. 

The current situation confirms that Bring Your Own (BYO) reusable containers can only be a transition towards making reuse the norm and that infrastructures and systems for reusables, where the container goes back to a producer to be cleaned and possibly refilled, need to be systematised.  But it certainly does not call for rushing back to single-use plastics. 

Beyond the environmental impacts, if we are to look into the issue of single-use plastics and health, science is not supporting the industry’s case. Plastics have adverse impacts on health all along their lifecycle and there is growing evidence that plastic packaging contains a large amount of hazardous chemicals that migrate into the food and drinks we consume. The chronic exposure to those chemicals through plastic food packaging can lead to serious illnesses and impair our immune system, leaving us more vulnerable when a disease such as COVID-19 comes around.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how little resilience there is in the way we currently produce, distribute and consume products and food. Delivering on an ambitious European Green Deal and making any recovery funding conditional on environmental and social criteria, will be essential in addressing our consumption and production behaviours.

It is high time we put people and the environment first in Europe and globally. Only an ambitious and timely implementation of the SUP Directive, as part of and together with the transition to a toxic free circular economy based on reuse systems and shorter supply chains, can make it happen. 

The Rethink Plastic alliance and Covid-19

The impacts of Covid-19 will not be equal, whether individuals contract the virus or not. Like many global catastrophes before it, Covid-19 is showcasing the vast inequalities of our current world systems. The burden (1) on healthcare workers, people working in the food sector, waste management workers, migrant workers, the unemployed, those who cannot work from home, and those who cannot access the resources they need, should not be overlooked. Similarly, the significant impact on women (2) during this crisis should also be acknowledged. Impacts will be felt across the environment, our societies and the economy, affecting people in very different ways – and there are still so many unknowns. Among the uncertainty, we have to allow humans to make the best choices available to them to keep themselves and their communities safe.

What we do know is that the current priority is our collective wellbeing, health and safety – taking care of one another, in solidarity with people around the world. Efforts should focus on the advice given by the WHO on preventive and precautionary measures to avoid the spread of the virus.

Covid-19 has created emergency responses and actions to address this pandemic and put public health above all else. For now, this remains the priority. But this must not be seen as a permit to pollute or an opportunity for the plastics industry to take us back to a world full of disposables for their own financial gain. 

The ongoing attempt by the EU plastic industry to delay and weaken the implementation of the 2019 EU legislation on single-use plastic is not scientifically founded. Recent studies have shown that the virus can stay viable on plastics for up to 72 hours – longer than on many other materials (3). In addition, single-use containers are not proven to be safer than reusable containers.  We cannot go backwards, we must learn, rebuild and move forwards

People all over the world are already showcasing how creative, adaptive and resilient we can be, and the everyday acts of kindness we are seeing are bringing hope to so many. Despite the distance Covid-19 has created, people are coming together to support one another. These support networks will help us move into a better, fairer, future tomorrow where the global community lives in harmony with nature. And, once the dust settles, these new global support networks will help us create a world that truly benefits everyone. 




Hackathon on prevention and reuse: writing the new story of plastic

On the 19th of February, we joined forces with #BreakFreeFromPlastic to host a hackathon on prevention and reuse. We came together for a full day to write the new story of plastic!

Over the course of the day we brainstormed new solutions, policy asks, design, and so much more with stakeholders from all across the plastic supply chain to create solutions to our plastic pollution problem!

You can get a sense of the day by looking at our photos and wrap up video below.

Plastic pellets in the spotlight

But what are they? Plastic pellets or “nurdles” are similar in shape and size to lentils. Polymer manufacturers and recyclers are fond of this particular format as it is easy to trade, transport and mould into the final plastic product.

There is a dark side, however: spilled pellets pose major risks to the environment, and marine life in particular, as they are often mistaken for food by marine animals. In addition, pellets absorb Persistent Organic Pollutants – toxic chemicals – in particularly high quantities. As a consequence, they enter the food chain, causing biodiversity loss and impacting human health.

There is light in the tunnel: pellet loss is preventable! Contrary to all the other microplastic pollution sources, which are not always easy to identify, pellet pollution is caused solely by actors in the plastic value chain, who know how to prevent it, even if are not always keen to do so. Although voluntary agreements on preventing pellet loss have existed for 30 years, the problem persists. 

To improve the situation, we need an EU law that imposes verified pellet loss prevention measures for all actors handling pellets, and disclosure requirements with their clients in the value chain.

Check out the new on-the-go factsheet from ECOS for more.

Read it here now!

A lifecycle assessment guide for plastic fuels

In our latest report Counting Carbon: a lifecycle assessment guide for plastic fuels by Bellona and Zero Waste Europe, we explore the need to measure the fossil carbon embedded within plastics from the extraction of carbon right through to its emission into the atmosphere.


Converting fossil plastics to fuels is sometimes marketed as a part of the solution to the environmental and waste problems the plastic industry is currently facing.


These fuels are produced by converting plastics back to their original form, fossil fuels (plastic refining) where they are ultimately burnt releasing fossil carbon  into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change. 


Some proponents have claimed that plastic fuels could be labelled as low-carbon, effectively using plastic production as a stepping stone to greenwash CO2 coming from fossil oil and gas. Proponents of plastic fuels have tried to achieve this by labelling the input as waste, therefore simply ignoring that fossil carbon in their greenhouse gas (GHG) calculations.


Favourable accounting, using selective life cycle assessment (LCA) (with narrow boundaries such as cradle-to-gate or gate-to-gate), allows for the CO2 emissions from the burning of plastics to be lost, giving the false impression that almost no GHGs will be emitted to the atmosphere. 


By promoting plastic fuels through various channels, the oil, gas and petrochemical industries can continue extracting and releasing fossil carbon into the atmosphere without any economic or political consequences. Partial LCAs and mislabelling of inputs for plastic fuels play into such narratives since they omit over 90% of the GHG emissions they cause.


To prevent gaming and selective accounting, robust guidelines for a full LCA are needed. The fossil carbon embedded within plastics needs to be traced from the extraction of the fossil carbon to its emission into the atmosphere. In LCA terms, this translates to a cradle-to-grave LCA which takes into account both the fossil origin of the plastic and the emissions caused by the final combustion of the fuel. 


View the report Counting Carbon.


Curbing sea-based pollution: guidance document for ambitious implementation of SUP & revised PRF directives

A shared collaboration by Rethink Plastic alliance and Break Free From Plastic.

Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) is of increasing concern due to its numerous environmental impacts. It is estimated that around 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear are lost or discarded in our oceans every year. Further to its pollution impact, the ability of ALDFG to continue to fish (referred to as “ghost fishing”) has detrimental impacts on fish stocks, food security, endangered species and benthic environments.

The Single-Use Plastic and Port Reception Facilities Directives (commonly referred to as SUP and PRF Directive respectively) share the objective of reducing marine pollution, with the SUP Directive focusing on the plastic items most commonly found on beaches (including fishing gear) and the PRF Directive on port reception facilities for sea-based waste through a range of measures, including market restrictions, economic measures and extended producer responsibility.

The present transposition guide will focus on the measures with the most important environmental potential to curb sea-based marine pollution, that are: fishing gear related provisions of the SUP Directive, port waste management provisions, fishing for litter and green ship concept of the PRF Directive.

Download the report here

Dear President-elect von der Leyen

Dear President-elect von der Leyen, 


The EU is now a global leader in the fight against plastic pollution and adopting the Directive on Single-use Plastics was pioneering. As President-elect of the European Commission, you have the unique opportunity to scale-up this leadership, and we are ready to support you in doing that. 


The Rethink Plastic alliance in Brussels and the global Break Free From Plastic movement are calling on the European Commission to prioritise tackling plastic pollution at source. This means addressing the exponential increase in both the production and use of plastic, eliminating major sources of plastic pollution and preventing hazardous chemicals from entering the material cycle. 


Plastic production is one of the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions – nearly all plastics come from fossil fuels, and greenhouse gases are emitted at each stage of the plastic lifecycle. You highlighted that “all of us and every sector will have to contribute” to address the climate crisis, this should include reducing plastic production and consumption. This is  what EU citizens are asking for.


We, as civil society organisations, call on you to:

  1. Prioritise reducing the overall production and use of plastics in the EU through the Green Deal, and in the Commission Work Programme.
  2. Implement, progress, and address the insufficiencies of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy so that it speeds the transition away from the linear economy, supports local and innovative business models based on prevention, reuse and toxic-free ecodesign, and contributes to the decarbonisation of the EU’s economy.
  3. Define what concrete steps you are going to take, and within what timeline, to reduce microplastic emissions and phase-out hazardous chemicals in plastic products.


Tackling plastic pollution presents the EU with an unprecedented opportunity for innovation, ecodesign (including toxic-free), new business models and delivery systems that can stimulate local employment while protecting public health and the environment, and contributing to the EU’s circular economy and decarbonisation agendas. We would very much appreciate the chance to meet with you, as soon as you are in office, to explain in greater detail the extent of this opportunity, and how we can support you in realising it. 


View the full letter & signatories here