MEPs push foodservice packaging bans

Fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene have been added to the list of single-use items that will be banned as part of the European Commission’s plans to tackle plastic pollution.

In May, the Commission presented new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas. Where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market, the Commission said. For products without “straight-forward” alternatives, the focus will be on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption, design and labelling requirements and waste management or clean-up obligations for producers.

Single-use plastic products such as cutlery, cotton bud sticks, plates, straws, beverage stirrers and balloon sticks were all on the list.

However, this week the Environment and Public Health Committee voted in favour of additions, namely: very lightweight plastic bags, products made of oxo-degradable plastics and fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene.

Several other items, for which no alternative exists, will also have to be reduced by member states in an “ambitious and sustained” manner by 2025, the committee said. This includes single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes or food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams.

Member states will draft national plans to encourage the use of products suitable for multiple use, as well as re-using and recycling. Other plastics, such as beverage bottles, will have to be collected separately and recycled at a rate of 90% by 2025. The proposed rules would also require plastic bottles to be made with 35% recycled plastic.

The report will next be put to a vote in the European Parliament during the plenary session in Strasbourg later this month.

It’s unclear whether the UK will have to follow any of these new regulations. However, the government has already set in motion a number of work streams looking at how to reduce single-use plastics, including taxes and bans on materials like polystyrene.

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