On 24 October 2018, the European Parliament in Strasbourg voted on the Proposal for a Directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. A large majority of MEPs voted in favour of the parliamentary report, which includes some later improvements. This could mean a significant improvement for environmental conditions throughout Europe.
Based on samples from eight countries, a Study by the Medical University of Vienna was recently able to prove that microplastics had entered the human digestive system. Discarded plastic often breaks down into microplastics and in doing so enters nature. Via the food chain, for example through fish or drinking water, microplastics are eventually consumed again by humans. The consequences are particular dramatic in oceans: 70 % of ocean waste is plastic waste, and the images of polluted waters and beaches shown by the media are on the increase.
The European Commission reacted to this development and in May 2018 presented a Proposal for a Directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. Since then, it has been debated by European Parliament and at the final vote on 24 October 2018 it confirmed the course to significantly reduce plastic waste.
The proposal includes a ban among others on single-use plastic packaging, but also on plastic plates and cutlery, as well as on cotton buds, straws and balloon sticks. The use of products, for which no environmentally alternative exists yet, shall be significantly reduced. Manufacturers are urged to participate in covering the costs of waste management and cleaning the environment. Apart from that, they shall contribute to raise the population's awareness. Another demand is better labelling by manufacturers. Recycling and the collection of plastic waste shall be improved. Member States are urged to recycle 90 % of all plastic bottles by 2025; Austria so far has a recycling degree of 60 %. According to the Commission proposal, new bottles should by then consist of at least 35 % recycled material.
On Monday, 22 October 2018, a debate on the proposal took place in the plenary of the European Parliament, during which the rapporteur MEP Frédérique Ries (ALDE) once again addressed the core demands of the Directive and her own proposals. In addition to the products, defined in the Directive, plastic fast-food containers and trays, yoghurt and beakers shall also be banned. Cigarette filters, which contain plastic, shall be reduced by 50 % by 2025 and by 80 % by 2030.
The vote on the parliamentary report, which was accepted by 571 votes, took place on Wednesday, 24 October 2018. Only 53 MEPs voted against and 34 abstained. Attempts by the EPP, to submit amendments in order to reduce the responsibility of companies, enshrined in the Directive were rejected by the plenary. Also, an amendment, which obliges the EU to develop a programme to clean and eradicate ocean plastic by 2020, was accepted.
However, whether it will be possible to finalise the Dossier before the EU Elections in May, will depend on the Council, whose position is not yet fixed. Once the Council has agreed a general orientation, it will be possible to start trilogue negotiations to determine the final wording of the Directive. If everything is going to plan, the new Directive shall be implemented at Member State level by 2021.