New proposals from the European Commission (EC) to target the ten single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas take in packaging used by food manufacturers.

The EC is keen to see the amount of harmful plastic litter in oceans and seas reduced and has unveiled a set of proposals which apply different measures to different products.

Where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market.

For products without straightforward alternatives, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; design and labelling requirements and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers. 

Plastic producers will be asked to help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up and to introduce awareness-raising measures for food containers, packets and wrappers (such as for crisps and sweets).

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The industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products.

EC first vice-president Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said: “Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food. 

“Today’s proposals will reduce single use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures. We will ban some of these items, and substitute them with cleaner alternatives so people can still use their favourite products.”

The plastic ban will apply to single use plastic products such as straws and drink stirrers.

European Union member states will have to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups by setting national reduction targets, making alternative products available at the point of sale, or ensuring that single-use plastic products cannot be provided free of charge.

The Commission’s proposals will now go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption. The Commission is urging the other institutions to treat this as a priority file and to deliver tangible results before elections in May 2019.

Read just-food analysis published in May: Plastic pledges – reason to be positive or time to panic?