In May, the European Commission proposed a set of measures to reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. The proposed directive focuses on 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas as well as on abandoned fishing gear. While proposals to reduce plastic waste are welcome, simply listing a limited number of plastic items found on the shore and prohibiting them would prove ineffective and insufficient to solve the actual problems. Measures to reduce plastic waste require a holistic approach in order to have a real impact in the long term, believes CoR rapporteur Sirpa Hertell, city Councillor of Espoo, Finland.

In her draft opinion, which was discussed at today’s ENVE Commission at the European Committee of the Regions, she calls for a wider approach that considers ecosystems as a whole and focuses on preventing disposable and non-degradable plastic waste entering the economy.

To achieve this, our societies need to bring about changes in product design and switch to more sustainable substitutes for plastics. Incentives, support for development for alternative materials as well as enhanced control and activities for cleaning up disposable plastic waste should be financed through taxes on the import and manufacture of disposable plastic materials.

The rapporteur points out that the current proposal addresses only a part of the issue of plastic marine litter. Shipping and yachting activities in European seas should also be better controlled to prevent waste-dumping in seas and ensure waste management on shore.

Without new technologies and routes for plastic recycling, there is a danger that the current EU ban to landfill plastic waste will increase transportation of this waste to third countries and increase plastic waste ending up in the environment. Therefore, Member States should be encouraged to take additional measures, such as recovering parts of plastic waste chemically, where mechanical recycling back to the original or a downgraded application is limited.

The rapporteur urges the European Commission to ensure that this proposal is coherent with the Circular Economy Package, especially the Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste, in order to send a clear and unambiguous signal to businesses and consumers. Addressing the plastics challenge can offer new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and jobs, as our societies move towards a circular economy.

Following today’s exploratory discussion at the ENVE Commission, the opinion will be put to a vote at the October Plenary session of the CoR.

See all articles