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Single-use plastics

The EU is tackling the 10 single-use plastic items most commonly found on Europe’s beaches, and is promoting sustainable alternatives.


Single-use plastic products (SUPs) are used once, or for a short period of time, before being thrown away. The impacts of this plastic waste on the environment and our health are global and can be drastic. Single-use plastic products are more likely to end up in our seas than reusable options. The 10 most commonly found single-use plastic items on European beaches, alongside fishing gear, represent 70% of all marine litter in the EU.

The EU aims to become a forerunner in the global fight against marine litter and plastic pollution. EU rules aims to reduce the volume and impact of certain plastic products on the environment.


Through the EU’s Directive on single-use plastics, different measures are being applied to different products. These measures are proportionate and tailored to get the most effective results, and also take into account if more sustainable alternatives are available.

The 10 items being addressed by the Directive are

  • Cotton bud sticks
  • Cutlery, plates, straws and stirrers
  • Balloons and sticks for balloons
  • Food containers
  • Cups for beverages
  • Beverage containers
  • Cigarette butts
  • Plastic bags
  • Packets and wrappers
  • Wet wipes and sanitary items

Where sustainable alternatives are easily available and affordable, single-use plastic products cannot be placed on the markets of EU Member States. This applies to cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, and sticks for balloons. It will also apply to cups, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, and on all products made of oxo-degradable plastic.

For other single-use plastic products, the EU is focusing on limiting their use through

  • reducing consumption through awareness-raising measures
  • introducing design requirements, such as a requirements to connect caps to bottles
  • introducing labelling requirements, to inform consumers about the plastic content of products, disposal options that are to be avoided, and harm done to nature if the products are littered in the environment
  • introducing waste management and clean-up obligations for producers, including Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes

Specific targets include

  • a 77% separate collection target for plastic bottles by 2025 – increasing to 90% by 2029
  • incorporating 25% of recycled plastic in PET beverage bottles from 2025, and 30% in all plastic beverage bottles from 2030


EU rules on single-use plastic products aim to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, in particular the marine environment, and on human health.

They also aim to promote the transition to a circular economy with innovative and sustainable business models, products and materials, therefore also contributing to the efficient functioning of the internal market.


Related law


Key dates related to the Directive on single-use plastics

  1. 30 November 2023
    Commission adopts Implementing Decision 2023/2683

    Commission Implementing Decision 2023/2683 laying down rules for calculation, verification and reporting of data on recycled plastic content in single-use plastic beverage bottles

  2. 30 May 2023
    Commission adopts Implementing Decision 2023/1060

    Commission Implementing Decision 2023/1060 on a harmonised standard for test methods and requirements to demonstrate that plastic caps and lids remain attached to beverage containers

  3. 4 February 2022
    Commission adopts Implementing Decision 2022/162

    Implementing Decision 2022/162 lays down rules for the calculation, verification and reporting on the reduction in the consumption of single-use plastic food containers and beverage cups

  4. 17 December 2021

    Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/2267 laying down the format for reporting data and information on the collected post-consumption waste of tobacco products with filters and of filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products 

  5. 1 October 2021
    Commission adopts Implementing Decision 2021/1752

    Implementing Decision 2021/1752 lays down rules for the calculation, verification and reporting of data on the separate collection of waste single-use plastic beverage bottles

  6. 3 July 2021
    The EU no longer allows certain single-use plastic items to be placed on the Member States market; and marking requirements enter into force
  7. 31 May 2021
    Commission adopts guidelines on single-use plastics products, and implementing decision on reporting on fishing gear
  8. 2 July 2019
    Directive on single-use plastics enters into force
  9. 16 January 2018
    Publication of the EU plastics strategy - outlining the need for a legislative proposal on single-use plastics


Related links

Main law: Directive on single-use plastics  

Entry into force: 2 July 2019

Related topics: Circular economy  Plastics  Sustainable development   Waste and recycling

Related strategies: Circular economy action plan  Plastics strategy

Related Commission priorities: European Green Deal


For questions about EU environmental policy, please contact Europe Direct.


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