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 thevolume andimpact 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.
- Directive on single-use plastics
- Summary of the Directive on single-use plastics
- Implementing regulation laying down rules on harmonised marking specifications on single-use plastic products listed in Part D of the Annex to the Directive and corrigenda to this implementing regulation
- Impact assessment part 1 - part 2 - part 3 and summary
- Implementing Decision 2021/1752 laying down rules for the calculation, verification and reporting of data on the separate collection of waste single-use plastic beverage bottles
- Commission guidelines on single-use plastic products in accordance with the Directive on single-use plastics (in all EU languages)
- Implementation plan – accompanying the proposal for a Directive on single-use plastics
- Download the vectorised pictograms for the marking of certain single-use plastic products, which are available in all EU languages.
- 4 February 2022Commission 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
- 1 October 2021Commission 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
- 3 July 2021The EU no longer allows certain single-use plastic items to be placed on the Member States market; and marking requirements enter into force
- 31 May 2021Commission adopts guidelines on single-use plastics products, and implementing decision on reporting on fishing gear
- 2 July 2019Directive on single-use plastics enters into force
- 16 January 2018Publication of the EU plastics strategy - outlining the need for a legislative proposal on single-use plastics
- Brochure on single-use plastics in all EU languages
- Factsheet on single-use plastics
- Supporting study - Assessment of measures to reduce marine litter from single use plastics
- Synopsis report stakeholder consultation
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.