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EU starts negotiations on policy for single-use plastics

The Austrian presidency of the European Union is managing negotiations on new rules that would ban the use of certain single-use plastics and reduce the use of other challenging packaging products that are frequently littered.

Discussions are now underway with the EuropeanParliament to develop policies after environment ministers from member states set out the Council’s position on Commission proposals forming part of the EU’s plastics strategy. The draft directive was presented by the Commission in May 2018.

In some areas, ministers backed the Commission but in others they wanted greater ambition. Some member states were also concerned that any directives on single-use plastics should be considered alongside existing waste legislation.

Design requirements

One response concerned definition: the Councilwants the Commission to publish guidelines on examples of what is to be considered a single use plastic product. It agreed with the proposal that thelids and caps of single-use plastic bottles and composite beverage packaging must be designed in such a way they stay on the bottle to improve recyclability. It also wants expanded polystyrene cups for beverages to be added to a list of items facing restrictions on being placed on the market.

It also urges an extended obligation on producers to cover the cost of clean-up and awareness-raising measures for challenging products, including wet wipes and balloons, for which no such obligation exists currently. The Council also wants this obligation to be extended to companies which import or sell such single-use plastic products or packaging in Europe.

Commingling possible

The Council accepts a general obligation requiring different types of waste to be kept separate but argues it should be possible to collect certain types of waste together, provided that it does not impede high-quality recycling. Collection targets for plastic bottles should be based on the number of plastic bottles placed on the market or the number ofwaste bottles generated in any member state, it adds.

This response means that the Austrian Presidency can negotiate with Parliament, which voted on its position on 24 October, and an initial meeting was held 6 November.

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