Building on the significant negative environmental and health impacts of single-use plastics, in May 2019 the EU approved pioneering legislation as part of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy – called the Single-Use Plastics Directive (SUP Directive) – to curb these products from entering the market and subsequently the natural environment. Unfortunately, during the preparatory works on the directive and its derived documents (e.g. Implementation Guidelines on the SUP Directive), this primary objective got somehow lost on the way, with the text coming late, looking ambiguous, while the European countries supposed to transpose and then implement it having found themselves in very different national realities, with the pandemic and remote working putting pressure on the demand of single use packaging.
The Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive, which covered a selection of products, quite arbitrarily, should have been transposed by July 3, 2021. However, the Commission did not publish its Guidelines on regulating single‑use plastic products until 7 June 2021, with one year of delay, and only one month before the deadline for Member States to transpose the Directive’s text. This resulted in Member States transposing late and quite different the European text.
The guidelines do not fully clarify the content of the Directive and some Member States (like Italy, Spain, Poland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic), were reluctant to fully accept its content as it endangers an entire industrial sector.
For example, in Spain, the authorities published an informative note on June 5, 2021 indicating that the banning obligation shall come into force on July 3, 2021, despite no legal transposition had taken place. The note generated both confusion and legal uncertainty within the sectors most affected by this Directive, such as hoteliers and supermarkets, who questioned whether the note can serve as a legal basis for these measures without a formal transposition instrument published in Spain’s official statute books.
In the spring of 2022, in Poland, the law was still not in Parliament, but in Gov’t interdepartmental work, the proposal being heavily criticized by environmental organizations and business associations during public consultations. Here, the proposed fee for single-use cups was taken out from the proposal as a result of the consultations with industry and distributors. No alternative proposal is known to date.
As a matter of fact, at the beginning of 2022, the Commission had reported having sent 16 letters of formal notice for lack of transposition of the SUP Directive to 16 Member States.
The law has just been adopted in the Czech Republic and will take effect in October 2022. In Finland and Estonia, the transposition is still being debated and a full legislative package is expected to be adopted by the end of 2022. In Italy, a national “plastic tax” on packaging has been under discussion for some time although, while, as a result of the Covid pandemic, it has been postponed to 2023.
In the opinion of the business, the aspect of changes in the consumption patterns and the transition from single-use products to environmental-friendly options was not sufficiently used, nor the increasing consumer awareness and involvement, which acts as a direct driver of changes in their attitudes.
As a matter of fact, BFG Packaging continues to produce and sell XPS disposable plastic products, while also making available packaging from renewable natural resources, 100% ecological and compostable.