EU: Plastic’s toxic chemicals to be recycled into new generations of consumer products

Strasbourg, 18 April 2019 – Today, the European Parliament approved the recast of the EU Regulation on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) [1]. This update to the regulation on the world’s worst chemicals will in practice allow toxic flame retardants, including DecaBDE, to be recycled into new plastic products, re-entering the market in concentrations far above safe levels and endangering human health and the environment.

The recast of Regulation (EC) No 850/2004 contradicts the EU’s obligations under the Stockholm Convention [2], an international treaty that requires parties to eliminate or restrict the use of persistent organic pollutants — chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods of time and harm human health and the environment. The Convention lists DecaBDE for global elimination, without any recycling exemption. The EU concentration limits [3] pave the way for a massive inflow of DecaBDE from discarded electronics into recycled plastic products, including children’s toys. [4]

While we welcome efforts to move to a circular economy, a toxic chemical does not become less toxic when it is recycled. For the circular economy to be a success, extreme caution must be taken to ensure it does not come at the expense of human health and the environment,” says Giulia Carlini, staff attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), on behalf of Rethink Plastic. “The chemicals listed in the Stockholm Convention are the world’s worst chemicals. DecaBDE is one of them, and we must eliminate it from our products. The updated regulation opens the door to much wider human and environmental contamination by this dangerous pollutant.

Rethink Plastic, an alliance of European NGOs fighting for a future free from plastic pollution, warns that people will be exposed to contamination without being aware, as products containing recycled DecaBDE will not necessarily be labeled disclosing their toxic components and related risks. “This is particularly dangerous as DecaBDE may likely end up in products for children, a population that is especially vulnerable to the toxic impacts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals,” continues Carlini.

Rethink Plastic urges the European Commission to review the concentration limits within the regulation as quickly as possible, and to stop dangerous pollutants from contaminating our products, notably through toxic recycling.



[1] Link to the approved document:

[2] Link to the Stockholm convention:

[3] 500 mg/kg for the sum of the listed PBDEs (tetra-, penta-, hexa-, hepta, and decaBDE) as an unintentional trace contaminant level in mixtures and articles, and 1000 mg/kg for the sum of the listed PBDEs in waste. DecaBDE alone has a 10 mg/kg limit, as well as the other single PBDEs, and Rethink Plastic advocates for a much more protective 50 mg/kg for the sum of listed PBDEs, both in mixtures, articles, and waste.

[4] Toxic recycling is still contaminating EU products, including children’s toys, hair accessories, and kitchen utensils, as shown in the report “Toxic Loophole: Recycling Hazardous Waste into New Products.”


Giulia Carlini, Staff Attorney, CIEL
+41 22 321 47 74 | [email protected]

Marie Mekosh, Communications Associate, CIEL
+001 202 742 5847 | [email protected]

Tyranny of the minority slows international progress on addressing plastic pollution

Nairobi, Kenya, 15 March 2019 – At the 4th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), member states of the UN Environment Programme failed to meet expectations to confront the ever-growing plastic-pollution crisis threatening our waterways, ecosystems, and health.

At UNEA-4, member states considered several resolutions designed to increase international action to halt plastic pollution. The first, proposed by Norway, Japan, and Sri Lanka, sought to strengthen international cooperation and coordination on marine plastic litter and microplastics, including through considering a possible new legally binding agreement. The second, proposed by India, sought to promote the phase-out single-use plastics worldwide.

Despite sweeping agreement by the majority of countries that urgent, ambitious, and global action is needed to address plastic across its lifecycle – from production to use to disposal – a small minority led by the United States (US) blocked ambitious text and delayed negotiations. Backed by a strong industry lobby with over $200 billion invested in petrochemical buildout to drastically expand plastic production, the US delegation was able to thwart progress and water down the resolutions, actions that were strongly opposed by many countries, including those most affected by plastic pollution, such as the Pacific Island States, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Senegal. Action-oriented member states did secure, however, the basic elements that will allow the building of future actions, based on the common vision that emerged among the vast majority of countries during the discussions. Most importantly, the mandate of the expert working group established at UNEA-3 was extended to continue its work, including by identifying technical and financial resources or mechanisms, and to report on its progress in considering response options at UNEA-5 in February 2021. The extension of this mandate keeps plastic on the international agenda and provides an opportunity to consider a future legally binding agreement.

Despite the overall disappointing outcome in not making progress at the speed and scale needed, countries remain committed to pursuing international cooperation and coordination to address the plastic-pollution crisis.

David Azoulay, Environmental Health Director, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL): “At UNEA-4, the vast majority of countries came together to develop a vision for the future of global plastic governance. Seeing the US, guided by the interests of the fracking and petrochemical industry, leading efforts to sabotage that vision is disheartening. But the growing appetite for better global plastic governance is evident, and this UNEA ensured the continuation of a process on which countries can build the future global framework to stop plastic pollution”

Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator, Break Free From Plastic: “Corporations should hear the call coming out of UNEA-4: Requirements for reduction are coming. They should support community zero-waste systems around the world by reducing the production of unmanageable waste and reinventing delivery structures for products to eliminate plastic packaging. We have a lot of collaborative work to do in the coming years to create policies and markets that are healthy, responsive to local needs, and based on systems of refill and reuse.”

Christopher Chin, Executive Director of The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE): “Waste management is an important part of the conversation, but it cannot effectively address the deluge of plastic pollution we all face. We cannot recycle our way out of this problem. While we are certainly disappointed that progress was stifled by industry-embracing obstacles imposed by a distinct few member states, we are encouraged by the otherwise near-universal support for forward action towards upstream solutions and discussions towards solutions considering the full lifecycle of plastics, including a potential new legally binding framework.”

Fabienne McLellan, Director International Relations, OceanCare: “One cannot help but note that we are heading for yet another failure by some governments to take real action due to nationalistic agendas. The problem is easy to understand, there is enough data, but the blockade of a few, powerful countries isn’t. We are leaving UNEA-4 without a strong decision and are sending a weak signal to the private sector. This is troubling as there should be clear guidance from international bodies towards a sustainable circular economy, a full lifecycle approach, and a call for a global governance architecture.”

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Zero Waste Europe: “The need to confront marine plastic pollution and single-use plastics are undeniably at the top of the global policy agenda, and Zero Waste initiatives at the local level have received recognition. The details of the final resolutions may be weak, but governments have real policy examples to follow, including the recently-adopted EU Directive on single-use plastics and bans on wasteful plastic products at the local and national level. These policies address the production and consumption drivers of plastic pollution. We salute the efforts of the countries and regions who stood strong in this debate in seeking equally ambitious action at the global level.”

Tim Grabiel, Senior Lawyer, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA):“Future generations will confront many indescribable problems due to a lack of political will to tackle head on the environmental issues of our time. We do not need to add plastic pollution to that list. Although we regret the lack of urgency displayed by a few bad-faith actors, we are encouraged that the expert group will be reconvened and expect progressive countries to use it as a launch pad for meaningful action at the next UNEA in February 2021.”

Tadesse Amera, CoChair, International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), Ethiopia: “As the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries are gearing up to escalate plastic and chemical production, governments at UNEA-4 could not curb the power of these private interests. This is concerning as the volume of plastic pollution will grow too. Plastics are toxic. Toxic chemicals -linked to cancer and early puberty in children- are used to make plastics, yet this issue was neglected in the final UNEA-4 outcome. These toxic chemicals additives in plastic are released later, creating toxic liabilities for chemical and plastic producers. In Africa, imported plastic products and plastic waste should be returned back to the producers to protect us from the toxic chemicals in the plastic materials. The industries producing these harmful chemicals should have an extended producer responsibility, and they should pay the costs related to their toxic plastic waste mess. In the big picture, toxics in means toxics out. We can’t recycle toxic plastics and pretend that the marine litter chaos is a waste issues; it’s a toxic product issue.”

Jane Patton, Director, No Waste Louisiana: “Plastic is pollution the minute it is made. We must reduce the production and use of plastic across the board to protect communities and health. No people or places should be sacrificed to corporate profit or a culture of consumption, and we can avoid that by taking into account the full lifecycle impacts of plastics. We are optimistic about the ambitious steps our governments will take to prevent plastic pollution, including production reduction, phase out, and investment in zero-waste systems.”

David Sutasurya, Indonesian Zero Waste Alliance: “The plastic industry is polluting developing countries, where they have fewer options of non-plastic alternatives and are directly exposed to plastic pollution every day. Multinational corporations have systematically pushed out local industry that uses much less plastic, in addition to facilitating the import of waste into developing countries from the high-consumption Global North. It is unfair that developing countries are using taxpayers’ money to manage these wastes that can neither be recycled or composted. Framing marine litter as only a waste management problem is nonsense when it’s actually a reflection of the industry’s refusal to take responsibility on the plastic pollution crisis. Multinational companies, together with national plastic industries, are now actively blocking any government effort to hold them accountable and responsible for the waste of their product, including significant reduction of its uses. Developed countries and industries have to be responsible for the waste problem that they create in developing countries and should support legally binding measures on reduction of global plastic production and consumption.”


Media Inquiries:

Amanda Kistler, (Nairobi) WhatsApp +1 339 225 1623, [email protected]

Jane Patton, (Nairobi) WhatsApp +1 (225) 266-5534, [email protected]

Jed Alegado, (Philippines) WhatsApp +63 917 607 0248, [email protected]

Background for editors:

Plastics have in been on the international policy agenda since UNEA-1, At UNEA-4, member states considered and approved four resolutions that either directly considered or referred to the global plastic crisis, especially in the form of marine litter. The preparation documents for UNEA-3 in December 2017 made clear that there are major gaps in the existing legal frameworks surrounding marine plastic litter, which have facilitated the growing crisis. Many countries and the UNEP Secretariat analyzed the failure of voluntary measures to meaningfully stop plastic pollution or marine litter in the long-term. Coming out of UNEA-3, states took a significant step to address those gaps by creating an Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group to more clearly consider the state of knowledge, gaps, and mechanisms for addressing the marine plastic litter issue. Between UNEA-3 and UNEA-4, the Expert Group created a summary of options for monitoring and for international governance to prevent and solve marine plastic litter. The Expert Group did not make recommendations for action to UNEA-4, however, as that was no included in its mandate.

At UNEA-4, the four resolutions adopted by consensus on Friday, March 15 were as follows. Largely across the board, the resolutions are missing any calls for production reduction of plastics or other chemical materials, and they largely focus on the waste management end of the problem. This ignores the significant role the plastics producers and the consumer goods corporations will be required to play in preventing plastic pollution and marine litter.

  • Marine Plastic Litter and Microplastics (a consolidated draft co-authored by Norway, Japan, and Sri Lanka): this was the main resolution proposing the creation of a Working Group to discuss options for action, including the creation of an international legally binding treaty with goals for both production reduction, policy change, and behavior change. Details on the scope of work, terms of reference, and meeting dates for this continued Expert Group are still lacking and will be determined by the UNEP Secretariat.
  • Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics Products (submitted by India): In a last-minute resolution submission, India took a bold step by proposing their planned national complete phase-out of single-use plastics by 2025 to become part of the international agenda. Chair put forward a significantly weakened compromise text that merely encouraged national action to address marine plastic litter, rather than the use and production of the plastic products themselves.
  • Environmentally Sound Management of Waste (submitted by League of Arab States): While again weakened from its original language, the adopted resolution calls on Member States to implement integrated waste management schemes, including zero waste, movement toward a circular economy, and minimization of packaging. As the resolution calls for significant investment and sharing of technology around waste management, there is concern that countries will adopt toxic and inefficient incineration (or waste-to-energy) schemes rather than taking preventative steps toward waste reduction.
  • Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste (submitted by the EU): This resolution mostly focused on strengthening international coordination on management of toxic chemicals (including Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and other agreements). The resolution reiterated the need for a minimization of plastic packaging as a preventative measure and called for action on eliminating planned obsolescence of technology products, which often contain a significant amount of plastic.

EU moves to ban microplastics in most products

(Photo by MPCA Photos)

Brussels, 30 January 2019 – The EU will use its powerful chemical laws to stop most microplastics and microbeads being added to cosmetics, paints, detergents, some farm, medical and other products, according to a draft law due to be tabled today.

The European Chemicals Agency says that 10,000 to 60,000 tonnes of microplastics intentionally added to products leak into the environment yearly, are impossible to remove and last for thousands of years. The scale of the problem is dramatic: six times the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the plastic pollution generated by 10 billion plastic bottles, the agency says. Microplastics accumulate and persist in the environment, one of the main reasons why the agency concluded it is necessary to restrict microplastic ingredients under REACH, the strictest set of chemical laws in the world.

The restriction is expected to become law across Europe by 2020. It will prevent an estimated 400,000 tonnes of plastic pollution, the agency says. NGOs welcomed the move as a significant step forward, but strongly warn that it grants unnecessary delays for most industrial sectors and excludes some biodegradable polymers. As it stands, the draft law will only restrict one sector when it comes into force, namely cleansing products made by firms that have already pledged to stop using microplastic. Other sectors will be granted 2-6 years before the law takes effect. The proposal will go to public consultation this summer followed by economic, social and risk assessments, then a vote by government experts in the secretive REACH committee not before early 2020.

Elise Vitali, chemicals policy officer for the European Environmental Bureau, said on behalf of Rethink Plastic: “The European Union is rapidly becoming a leader in the global culture shift away from wasteful plastic. Microplastic is one of those vast but largely invisible problems; a menace all around and in us. It was fed by irresponsible firms, such as those making personal care products that decided to swap out natural ingredients like ground almond, coconut shell and olive seed for plastic microbeads. We’ll be pushing hard to tighten this proposal to ensure real impact. Tackling the plastics inside products is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to solving the microplastic blight, but is a necessary step.”

The ban is part of the EU plastics strategy that saw Europe become the first continent to start banning many types of single use plastic by 2021.



Roberta Arbinolo, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic alliance
 +32 2 736 20 91[email protected]

Elise Vitali, chemicals policy officer, European Environmental Bureau
[email protected]

Alice Bernard, Lawyer, Chemicals, ClientEarth
[email protected]


Read the proposal and the annex.

EU agrees unprecedented cuts to single-use plastics

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brussels,  19/12/2018

After months of intense negotiations, the EU has agreed much-anticipated laws to slash single-use plastics in the EU. The agreed text is a significant step forward in tackling plastic pollution, but does not fully address the urgency of the plastics crisis, according to Rethink Plastic and Break Free From Plastic.

“The EU deserves praise for being the first region to introduce new laws to reduce single-use plastics and slash plastic pollution in our fields, rivers and oceans. What’s less laudable is that the plastics lobby – backed up by some governments – was able to delay and weaken the ambition,” said Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe on behalf of Rethink Plastic. “Citizens across Europe want to see an end to our throwaway culture and politicians have taken the first step. The time is ripe for Europe to transition away from single-use plastics to reusables.”

The final measures adopted [1] include:

  • Bans on several single-use plastic items including plates, cutlery and expanded polystyrene food containers and beverage cups
  • Ensuring manufacturers pay for waste management and clean-up of several single-use plastic items, including cigarette butts and fishing gear

However, the agreement falls short of what is needed to fully tackle the plastics crisis in key areas including:

  • No binding EU-wide target to reduce the consumption of food containers and cups, and no obligation for EU countries to adopt targets
  • A delay of four years on ensuring 90% of plastic bottles are collected separately – from 2025 to 2029

“The new laws are a significant first blow to the plastic pollution monster” said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European Coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement. “However, their impact depends on the implementation by our national governments who must immediately adopt ambitious targets to cut single-use plastics, and ensure producers pay for their pollution. The public call to stop plastic pollution is loud and strong, it is unacceptable to ignore it.”

Tomorrow, December 20, national Environment Ministers are expected to sign off on the agreed Directive. Member States will have two years to transpose it into national laws, which should come into force at the beginning of 2021 at the latest.



[1] The measures adopted include:

What’s good:

  • A EU-wide ban of single-use plastic cotton buds, straws, plates, cutlery, beverage stirrers, balloon sticks, oxo-degradable plastics, and expanded polystyrene food containers and beverage cups

  • Extended Producer Responsibility schemes meaning manufacturers (including big tobacco companies and top polluters from the packaging industry like Coca Cola, Pepsico and Nestle) pay for the costs of waste management, clean up and awareness-raising measures for certain single-use plastics including plastic cigarette filters – the most littered item in Europe (by January 2023 for most items)

  • A possibility for EU countries to adopt market restrictions for food containers and cups for beverages

  • An obligation for EU countries to reduce post-consumption waste from tobacco product filters containing plastic

  • For fishing gear, an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme and a requirement for Member States to monitor collection rates and set national collection targets

  • Ensure all beverage bottles are produced from 30% recycled content by 2030

  • Labelling on the presence of plastics in a product and resulting environmental impacts of littering, and on the appropriate waste disposal options for that product

What’s not so good:

  • No binding EU-wide target to reduce the consumption of food containers and cups, and no obligation for EU countries to adopt targets either; instead, countries must “significantly reduce” their consumption, leaving it vague and open

  • A delay of 4 years in achieving the 90% collection target of beverage containers, from 2025 to 2029, with an intermediary target of 77% by 2025

  • Allowing for EU countries to choose to achieve consumption reduction and certain EPR measures through voluntary agreements between industry and authorities

  • A 3 year delay to make sure plastic drinks containers have their caps/lids attached to the containers – from 2021 to 2024

These measures apply to all single-use plastics listed in the Directive’s Annexes including bio-based and biodegradable plastics.



Roberta Arbinolo, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic
[email protected]  / +32 2 736 20 91

Meadhbh Bolger, Resource Justice Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe
[email protected] +32 2 893 1016

Matt Franklin, Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic
m[email protected] / +44 79 23 37 38 31

Single-use plastics law: what to look out for as EU countries try to water down deal

After the European Parliament’s position on EU single-use plastic laws made headlines around the world in October, the agreement on the final deal concludes on Tuesday night as the Council of the EU, the EU Parliament and the EU Commission finish negotiations.

More background on the political process here.

Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe for Rethink Plastic said: “People across Europe celebrated the EU Parliament’s vote for ambitious plans to cut single-use plastics back in October – but the final deal still needs to be agreed with governments and the EU Commission on Tuesday night. It looks like governments will back bans on a number of products, but this alone is not enough to solve the plastics crisis. They need to stop digging their heels in and back measures to ensure producers pay for the pollution they cause.”

What’s happening and when?

  • Tuesday December 18th – final negotiations between EU Commission, Parliament and Council, beginning around 18:00 and set for a final agreement in the early hours of December 19th
  • Thursday December 20th – formal sign off by national ministers at Environment Council
  • End January – formal sign off by European Parliament
  • March/April – entry into force (launching the 2 year transposition period for Member States)

What’s at stake and what do we expect?

Based on the latest texts from trilogue negotiations and technical discussions, and further intelligence gathering, these are the key issues to look out for.

Where might the Council weaken the deal?

  • Producers paying for plastic waste: The Council may delay the implementation of extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes by 4 years (from 2021 to end of 2024). These schemes would ensure producers (including big tobacco companies and top polluters from the packaging industry including Coca Cola, Pepsico and Nestle) contribute to pay for the costs of waste management, litter clean-up and awareness raising of several single-use plastic items they produce including cigarette butts, the most littered item in Europe. The Council also wants the possibility for EU countries to implement EPR through voluntary agreements with companies. The Parliament has opposed this fiercely so far, particularly for tobacco products and filters.
  • Collection targets for plastic bottles: The Parliament stuck to the Commission’s proposal of a 90% collection rate for single-use plastic beverage containers by 2025, but it is now likely the Council will water this down to 75% by 2025 and 90% by 2030. With countries like Lithuania achieving a rate of 90% within 2 years of implementing a deposit return system, there is no excuse for a delay.
  • Backing off on collection and recycling targets for fishing gear: Although the Commission officially supported the 50% separate collection rate proposed by Parliament, it looks like neither this target nor the recycling target will pass.

Likely compromises

  • Reducing consumption of plastic food containers and cups: The Parliament voted for an EU-wide 25% reduction in consumption of these items by 2025. However, both Commission and Council are not supporting quantitative targets, instead leaving it open and vague as a “significant reduction”. There may be a compromise, so watch out for the inclusion that Member States must develop national reduction targets followed by EU-wide targets.
  • Producer responsibility for fishing gear: EPR will be mandatory and it is likely there will be binding reporting requirements for gear placed on the market and collection rates of waste gear, which will allow for the establishment of quantitative targets in the future. The circularity of fishing gear is also likely to be encouraged by specific eco-design standards for reuse and recycling.

Likely to go through

  • Single-use plastic bans: In addition to bans on single-use plastic straws, cutlery, plates, beverage stirrers, cotton bud sticks and balloon sticks by 2021, Parliament added new items to the ban list – oxo-degradable plastics and expanded polystyrene food containers. It is likely these will be agreed on by all sides, as well as a ban on expanded polystyrene cups. However, there is likely to be a delay on the ban to paper plates with plastic lining to 2023.

Key facts

580 billion plastic cigarette filters

46 billion plastic beverage bottles

2.5 billion takeaway food containers

16 billion plastic coffee cups

36.4 billion plastic drinking straws

  • – About 80 percent of all plastic ever produced has accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.

– Under 30% of the annual European plastic waste is collected for recycling, with the rest landfilled, incinerated, or leaked into the environment. 40% of the plastics collected for recycling are exported, mainly to Asia.

  • – Without effective reduction measures, it is expected that by 2025 global plastics production capacity will increase by more than one third.

– Waste fishing gear such as nets and ropes are among the 10 most common marine litter items found on beaches (27% of the total).

– There are over 4000 chemicals associated with plastics packaging for which information on the level and toxicity is difficult to access.

– Takeaway drinking straws given out by fast food restaurants in the EU in one year would stretch to the moon and back 10 times.

EU Parliament and Commission firm on cutting plastic pollution, governments must follow

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brussels, 26/11/2018

“The fight against plastic pollution is one that we can win. The EU plastics laws initiated by the Commission and endorsed by the Parliament are a first step towards a future where plastic doesn’t poison us. If we commit to this together, nobody loses, everybody wins“, said European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans at a press conference today. “The industry is clearly now focusing its energy on the EU Council. It’s up to the Austrian presidency to resist, and maintain the level of ambition initiated by the Commission, and reinforced by Parliament. This is the perfect slot in our history to impulse the virtuous change demanded by citizens. Disappointing them would be tragic”, added Frédérique Ries, who represents the European Parliament in the negotiations on the single-use plastics law.

Mr Timmermans and Ms Ries were speaking beside a three-metre tall dragon spewing single-use plastic litter collected in beach clean-ups, which will stay in front of the Council till Wednesday.

“The Commission and Parliament plan would deal a significant first blow to the monster of plastic pollution, but this plan is at risk. Consumption of throwaway plastic needs to be cut drastically, and the companies making money on the back of this pollution must also be held responsible. If governments don’t ensure the polluter pays, they side with the dragon” said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European Coordinator of Break Free From Plastic [1].

Campaigners warned that national governments risk weakening ambitious extended producer responsibility (EPR), whereby producers would cover costs for clean-up of litter, for management of plastic waste [2], as well as for awareness raising. Notably, countries may attempt to delay EPR implementation by four years, and exempt waste management costs for some items including the most littered plastic item in Europe: tobacco filters.

“We are at a turning point. Member States must break with short-termism, by holding producers accountable and supporting ambitious prevention and collection measures for fishing gear as well as single-use plastics. EU institutions have the unique chance to spearhead global action on swift and effective solutions to curb plastic pollution.” said Frédérique Mongodin, Seas At Risk senior marine litter policy officer, on behalf of Rethink Plastic. [3]

On November 28, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are meeting for a second round of negotiations on single-use plastics laws. The third and last negotiation round is to take place on December 18.



[1] Break Free From Plastic published in October the results of its global brand audits which identify top plastic polluters:

[2] Including putting relevant waste collection infrastructure in place and collecting, transporting and treating this waste.

[3] The European Parliament voted last month in favour of modulated financial contributions to promote eco-design as well as specific 50% collection and 15% recycling targets for fishing gear.

EU governments try to undermine single-use plastics law – Rethink Plastic reaction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brussels, 31/10/2018


Reacting to the Council of the EU’s position on the proposed single-use plastics Directive, [1] Sarah Baulch, Senior Ocean campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency, on behalf of the Rethink Plastic alliance, said:


“With today’s agreement, EU governments are attempting to undermine an ambitious and popular proposed law to slash plastic pollution.

The Council not only failed to back some key measures to cut single-use plastics, but also introduced a significant loophole that could give producers a free pass, instead of making them pay for the devastating environmental costs of their products.

Citizens across the EU will be counting on their governments to reverse this position and back a final law that ensures producers pay for their pollution during the final negotiations in the coming weeks.”

Today’s proposal would allow the use of voluntary agreements instead of binding Extended Producer Responsibility schemes, meaning that producers could be exempt from paying the costs of plastic pollution.


Free-to-use photos available here



[1] Council of the EU press release

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

  • 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
  • December 20th: (likely) sign off by national Ministers at Environment Council
  • December – January: European Parliament signs off final agreement



Press contact: Sarah Baulch, Senior Ocean Campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency on behalf of Rethink Plastic [email protected] / +44 207 354 7960

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

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

European Parliament takes historic stand against single-use plastic pollution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Strasbourg, 24/10/2018

The European Parliament has leapt forward to protect people and the environment from plastic pollution, and national governments must now show the same ambition, according to the Rethink Plastic alliance.

An overwhelming majority in the European Parliament voted today to strengthen the European Commission’s plan to cut pollution from single-use plastic items. [1] The Parliament voted to ban some of the most problematic throwaway products, such as expanded polystyrene food containers, and to ensure producers are held accountable for the costs of single-use plastic pollution. For fishing gear, one of the largest contributors to marine litter, harmonised standards will be developed and minimum collection and recycling targets will be set at the EU level. [2]

“The European Parliament has made history by voting to reduce single-use plastics and slash plastic pollution in our rivers and ocean” said Justine Maillot, EU Affairs Project Officer at Surfrider Foundation Europe on behalf of Rethink Plastic. “Citizens across Europe want to see an end to plastic pollution. It’s now up to national governments to keep the ambition high, and resist corporate pressure to continue a throwaway culture.”

However, campaigners are disappointed that the full Parliament did not adopt a ban on very light-weight single-use plastic bags supported by the Environment committee.

A leaked letter recently exposed how major plastic polluters such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Danone are lobbying national environment ministers to water down the directive. [3]

Representatives of EU national governments are expected to meet later this month to agree on their joint position, and the three-way negotiations between governments, the European Parliament, and the European Commission could then start as soon as early November.



[1] European Commission steps forward to cut on single-use plastics – but it’s just the beginning, Rethink Plastic alliance

[2] The measures adopted include:

  • A EU-wide ban of single-use plastic cotton buds, straws, plates and cutlery (with exemptions until 2023), beverage stirrers, balloon sticks, oxo-degradable plastics and expanded polystyrene food containers and cups
  • An obligation for EU countries to adopt measures to achieve a 25% reduction of the consumption of food containers and cups for beverages
  • An obligation for EU countries to reduce post-consumption waste from tobacco product filters containing plastic by 50 % by 2025 and 80 % by 2030,
  • Extended Producer Responsibilty (EPR) schemes that include the cost of clean up and awareness raising measures
  • Harmonised standards and an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme for fishing gear, as well as a 50% collection target and a 15% recycling target for fishing gear by 2025
  • An obligation to separately collect 90% of beverage containers and ensure they are produced from 35% recycled content by 2025
  • An obligation to prevent the use of hazardous chemicals in the composition of sanitary items
  • An obligation to label products to inform consumers about the presence of chemicals of concern in certain single-use plastic products

These measures apply to all single-use plastics listed in the Annexes including bio-based and biodegradable plastics.

[3] Coca Cola, Pepsi and Nestle attempt to water down new plastics laws, leaked letter reveals, The IndependentDrinks giants rail against EU bottle cap plan, Euractiv