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EU Single-Use Plastic Ban

28 September 2021 Kaushik Mitra

Europe leads global circularity drive in plastics

The European Union (EU) is at the forefront of the global sustainability movement to transform the plastic economy from a linear to a circular one. The EU has announced bold regulations and initiated sweeping reforms that aim to guide the circularity drive towards its goals of

  1. resource (fossil fuel) conservation,
  2. prevention of environmental leakage, and
  3. extending the plastic lifecycle by replacing more virgin resin with secondary raw material derived from plastic waste.

One of the key initiatives is phasing out single-use plastics.

EU Single-Use Plastics Directive calls for ban and reduction of SUPs

Under the EU Directive 2019/904, or the "Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Directive," certain plastic items under a specific list have been prohibited from being placed on the EU markets since 3 July 2021. The directive covers a broad area and a range of measures, and its goals extend from the immediate term to 2030. On top of prohibiting the listed products, other measures will apply at various levels under the SUP Directive:

  • The minimum 30% recycled content requirement in beverage bottles by 2030 will curb virgin plastic demand growth. It will also promote interpolymer substitution, e.g., HDPE bottles replaced by PET bottles owing to ease of recycling.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) obligations will be raised, although a precise estimate of such costs would be premature, as it will ultimately depend on the articulation of national measures.
  • To raise awareness, some plastic products will be subject to marking requirements on the product or the packaging, including sanitary towels, tampons and tampon applicators, wet wipes, tobacco products, and beverage cups. This will likely have limited direct impact in terms of packaging costs, but a possible impact in terms of consumer deselection.
  • Member States will need to achieve and measure a sustained reduction in consumption of plastic cups for beverages and food containers intended for immediate consumption of products. This could be disruptive to polymer volumes

European Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Ban: At a glance

EU SUP Directive to have significant medium/long-term impact

There is no doubt that this directive will have significant impact on the plastic industry and virgin resin consumption in the medium and long term. The impact will be amplified by a shift in consumer behaviour and moves towards circularity by consumer packaging companies. Even the governments across the region are taking initiatives to facilitate the transformation. The deposit return scheme (DRS) for beverage bottles is one such initiative.

The medium-term impact on virgin resin consumption is analyzed under two scenarios, because there are multiple variables at play and the evolution is predicated on how they evolve. Scenario 1 (base case) considers a mild impact . Scenario 2 (aggressive scenario) considers a more severe impact. Polymerwise, the impact in terms of virgin resin deselection, displacement, and replacement is shown below.

The EU Single-Use Plastics Directive: Impact on commodity plastics

Posted 28 September 2021 by Kaushik Mitra, Executive Director, Polyolefin, EMEA, IHS Markit


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