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EU Plastics Strategy and Single Use Plastics Directive

The EU Action Plan for a circular economy identified plastics as a key priority and committed to ‘prepare a strategy addressing the challenges posed by plastics throughout the value chain and taking into account their entire life-cycle’. 

It is the first Europe-wide strategy on plastics and is part of the transition towards a more circular economy.  The strategy sets out a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU while creating new investment opportunities and jobs.

The goal is to protect the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation.  Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market must be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the use of microplastics will be restricted.

The Single Use Plastic (SUP) Directive 

The Single Use Plastic (SUP) Directive also forms part of the EU’s Plastic Strategy having been transposed into Irish Law on 3 July 2021.  The main aim of the SUP is the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, particularly marine litter.  

SUP products are made wholly or partly from plastic and are typically intended to be used just once or for a short period of time before they are thrown away.  The SUP Directive restricts certain items from being placed on the market where there is an alternative material available. 

The following plastic items are now prohibited under the SUP Directive.

  • Plastic straws
  • Plastic cotton bud sticks
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Plastic plates
  • Plastic beverage stirrers
  • Plastic balloon sticks
  • Cups made of expandable polystyrene
  • Food containers made of expandable polystyrene
  • Beverage containers made of expandable polystyrene
  • All products made of oxo-degradable plastic

The directive also outlines the following:

  • Measures to reduce consumption of food containers and beverage cups made of plastic and specific marking and labelling of certain products.
  • EPR schemes to cover the cost to clean-up litter (tobacco filters, fishing gear).
  • The introduction of design requirements to tether caps to bottles.
  • The following targets for plastic bottles:

SUP Directive Targets for Plastic Bottles:

Separate collection of beverage bottles for recycling

  • 77% by 31 December 2025
  • 90% by 31 December 2029

Recycled plastic content in PET beverage bottles

  • 25% by 31 December 2025
  • 30% by 31 December 2030