European Parliament votes to solidify EU position as global leader in the fight against plastic pollution

Posted on 24 October 2018

Today's plenary vote puts the EU on track as a global leader in reducing plastic pollution
Brussels, Belgium - 24 October 2018                

Following the ENVI Committee vote two weeks ago, today, the European Parliament (EP) plenary voted on the European Commission’s single-use plastic proposal

WWF welcomes the majority of the EP’s amendments, putting the EU on track as a global leader in reducing plastic pollution and pioneering stronger circular economies. Highlights include:
  • Market restrictions on single-use items for which reusable or alternative-material substitutes already exist, including plastic straws, stirrers, cotton bud sticks, cutlery and plates, balloon sticks, oxo-degradable plastic products, and food and beverage take-away containers made of expanded polystyrene.
  • Ensuring that biodegradable plastics are subject to the same restrictions as other materials defined as substitutes for single-use plastic. Many materials currently labeled as biodegradable fail to degrade easily in nature and break down into microplastics, increasing the burden of microplastics in the ocean and on environmental health. 
  • Support for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes which ensure plastic producers have responsibility to cover the costs of reducing the impacts of plastic litter on the environment. EPR will incentivise re-design for more sustainable products that are easier to recycle, motivating producers to collaborate with local municipalities to ensure high plastic collection rates.
  • The definition of fishing gear also includes gear used for fish farming and aquaculture. At least 700,000 tons of lost or abandoned fishing gear enters the ocean each year, harming or killing over 40% of marine mammals listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species1.
  • Strengthening the European Commission’s original proposal by establishing clear consumption reduction targets for cigarette filters made of plastic by 80% by 2030 and for throwaway food containers and cups by 25% by 2025.

However, the European Parliament lost a vital opportunity to eliminate legal loopholes associated with definitions of single-use plastic. Any product labelled as reusable or re-fillable, even if the product design demonstrates that it is not intended for multi-use, now falls outside the EU Single-use Plastic Directive scope. It is therefore up to consumers to determine whether these items remain destined to be plastic pollution, rather than providing clear limitations on the plastic manufacturers from the beginning of the product’s life.

Samantha Burgess, Head of Marine Policy at WWF European Policy Office, said: “Today, the European Parliament has stood up for ocean conservation and taken action on plastic pollution by removing unsustainable plastic items from our shop shelves and keeping them out of nature. Clarity on fishing gear and support for deposit and return schemes are a critical step for protecting the hundreds of thousands of marine animals that die due to lost fishing nets every year. However, to not include light-weight plastic bags, one of the most pervasive forms of marine litter and one of the easiest plastic items to replace with sustainable alternatives, is extremely disappointing. Today’s consumption reduction targets mark a turning point for innovation and redesign of sustainable and circular product life cycles on the European market.”

Final negotiations on the EU Single-use Plastics Directive between the European Council and the European Parliament begin early next month. WWF calls on the Austrian Presidency leading the European Council to support the measures adopted by the EP thus far and to increase their ambition for measures that support a sustainable, circular economy that keeps plastic waste out of nature.


1. Ghosts beneath the waves, World Animal Protection, 2018

Larissa Milo-Dale
Marine Communications Officer
+32 483 26 20 86
Plastic debris washed ashore at Ardtreck Bay on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK
© Global Warming Images / WWF