About a year ago, we told you about the European Union’s plan to address the issue of single-use plastics. On April 15, 2019, the EU passed a measure supporting a sweeping single-use disposables ban to go into effect beginning in 2021.
“Plastics poison our seas,” said Belgian legislator Frédérique Ries. “If we do not take action, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.”
This legislation is notable for a number of reasons. First, it is the largest disposables ban ever. The EU has 28 member countries and the proposal has broad support throughout the region. But perhaps even more impressive is the speed with which this legislation was approved. The initial proposal from the European Commission first proposed the restrictions in May of 2018. And now, less than a year later, the legislation has cleared all hurdles to be approved by the larger governing body.
Although the majority of banned items are used in foodservice operations, the ban also includes items such as cotton swabs made with plastic and the plastic sticks used to hold novelty balloons.
The major items in the ban include:
- Plastic cups (also bans polystyrene cups)
No Bottle Ban
However, one category of plastic disposable is not banned by the new legislation. Plastic bottles will still be permitted, but with some caveats. First, the EU has set a target of 90% collection for plastic bottles. In addition, beginning in 2025, bottles must be made with at least 15% recycled materials. And this rate goes up to 30% in 2030.
The new measures are aimed at curbing marine pollution. The EU estimates that 80% of the marine litter in the region comes from single-use plastics.
Belgian legislator Frédérique Ries helped to guide the legislation through the 751-seat Parliament.
“Plastics poison our seas,” said Ries, “If we do not take action, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.”
This new legislation may put a crimp in some foodservice and tourist businesses. But it does open a huge opportunity for those companies that can develop alternative, eco-friendly, sustainable disposables. However, to date, the biggest hurdle has been the cost of such alternatives. The types of businesses most affected by this disposables ban typically run on very thin margins.
And add in the rise of takeout and delivery trends and you have a potential crisis among restaurant and hospitality businesses.
Although we have seen some regional bans on certain single-use disposables, there are no current plans for more broad legislation in the US at this time.