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Negotiations have kicked off between the European Council and Parliament on a new EU policy to reduce the use of single use plastic packaging.

A draft directive on “Single Use Plastics” was presented by the European Commission in May 2018, with the aim of tackling the plastic waste on Europe’s beaches, through a combination of measures including market restrictions, consumption reduction targets, product redesign requirements and extended producer responsibility. The directive is central to the EU’s “Plastics Strategy” and Circular Economy Action Plan and builds on the revised EU waste legislation which includes targets for the recycling of plastic.

Single Use Plastics have been defined as plastic products typically intended to be used just once or for a short period of time before being disposed of. The draft proposal includes a number of elements which will directly impact the dairy industry:

  • Plastic food containers for on-the-go consumption,for example yogurts, dessert containers and ice-creams, will be subject to national reduction targets and producers of the packaging will be obliged to contribute towards the costs of clean-up and waste management. This is called“Extended Producer Responsibility”.
  • Single use plastic bottles, including milk bottles, milk cartons (due to their plastic lining) and drinking yogurt, will be required to have tethered (attached) caps by 2022 (to improve recyclability).  A 90% collection and recycling target has been set for plastic bottles by 2025.
  • Plastic Straws on milk cartons will be banned from 2021.

As the proposed deadlines are very tight, considering the level of investment needed for research in new product design and packaging material as well as new equipment and production line changes, the agri-food industry is seeking greater flexibility within the directive, particularly considering the need for dairy packaging to ensure food safety and maintain quality and freshness while also safeguarding practicality. ICOS will be focusing on these key aspects as negotiations continue into 2019.

By Alison Graham   

European Affairs Executive