This press release was originally issued by the Rethink Plastic alliance. The European policy alliance of the #breakfreefromplastic movement.
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.
However, reduction targets missing and collection targets delayed, campaigners warn
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  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.
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.
SumOfUs, Global2000 and #aufstehn demand EU plastics directive not be weakened at the last moment
Vienna, 5 Dezember 2018 – Today, Global consumer group SumOfUs, environmental organisation Global 2000 and the activist group #aufstehn delivered a petition with nearly 70,000 signatures to Elisabeth Köstinger, President of the EU Council, asking her to ensure that the EU Plastics Directive is passed in order to reduce single-use plastics and makes corporations pay for the plastic waste they are responsible for.
The EU Plastics Directive aims at drastically reducing pollution from single-use plastics in the oceans and the environment. Important details of the directive are still discussed, namely reduction goals and quotas, as well as how businesses will be held accountable and have to pay for the plastic waste they produce.
“We need to make sure that this ambitious plastics directive is not weakened at the last moment because of corporate lobbying,” saidEoin Dubsky, Campaign Manager for SumOfUs.
“We are urging Secretary Köstinger to follow through on fighting plastic waste and use the next two years,” added Lisa Kernegger of Global 2000. “In order to make sure that happens, we need to make sure that the EU has a strong plastics directive without weak compromises for wealthy corporations. Any implementation of this directive can only be as good as the policies within it . This is true for Austria, and of course for the rest of Europe.”.
“We’ve fought hard for a strict plastics directive over for the last several few months. Köstinger is the Austrian environmental secretary, and now it’s her chance to make sure this law won’t be watered down”, said Johanna Morandell of #aufstehn.
Producer responsibility requirements must be stronger, campaigners warn
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 .
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 , 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. 
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.