Renewable Matter # 22 / July-August

The EU Wants to Seal the Deal on Plastic

by Francesco Petrucci

It appears that the European Union wants to seal the deal on single use plastics before the 2019 elections, a topic that is not only an environmental and economic question, but also a “political” one.

Maybe, this is the reason behind the single use plastics directive presented by the European Commission on the 28th of May 2018 (see n.21/2018 by RM) which was already voted for on the 10th of July by the Environment Commission of the European Parliament. The legislative proposal, amongst other things, prohibits the sale of certain plastic products (including cotton buds, cutlery, plates, and straws). Compared to the text presented by the European Commission, European members of parliament voted for the ban to start in 2020 for oxo-degradable plastics, microplastics contained in cosmetics and in products for personal hygiene, detergents, and cleaning products. The European Parliamentary vote will take place in October so that negotiations with the EU Counsel can then start, with the intention of sealing the deal before the elections in May 2019.

Incisive actions on plastic, even using financial backing, have also been requested by the OCSE in a Report published on the 24th of May 2018. The European Union (that in any case recycles an average of 30% of plastic compared to the 10% recycled in the USA) is aware that this circular industry needs support and for this reason the European Commission approved, at the end of May 2018, three proposals on regulation for sustainable finance with the objective of propelling private investments in the direction of the circular economy.

As mentioned in the previous edition, on the 4th of July 2018 new directives on EU waste came into vigour that are part of the “Circular Economy Package” and which will have to be adopted by member states by the 5th of July 2020. On the over hand, no agreement was reached on the broadening of rules for the directive on ecodesign so as to include other products on top of those tied to energy. The European Parliament, in a resolution dated 31st May 2018, requested that smartphones be included in the list of products that will be required to have an ecologically compatible design, as they are currently one of the least recycled and recovered products.

In terms of the classification of waste categories there is an important date for businesses: from the 5th of July 2018 the new definition of the characteristics of hazardous waste “HP 14 Ecotoxic” (established in the regulation 2017/997/EU) will be applied.

There is also some big news on the energy front: from the 9th of July 2018 the directive 2018/844EU will come into vigour and will update the 2010 directive on energy efficiency in the construction sector; the objective is to arrive at the decarbonisation of the European real estate sector by 2050. On the other hand, on the 27th of June 2018 there was an agreement on the new directive on renewable energy with the mandatory target of 32% renewable energy by 2030, whereas on the 20th June 2018 the directive on energy efficiency fixed the target at 32.5% by 2030. Now all that is missing is the formal vote by the European Parliament and Counsel. 

In the field of Greenhouse Gas emissions from the 29th of July 2018 the regulation 2018/956/EU will come into vigour so as to monitor and transmit information on the emissions produced by trucks, lorries and busses.

Delving further into the automotive theme, there is an interesting proposal by the Commission dated 17th May 2018, on the renewal of labels for tyres so as to improve the information conveyed to consumers on their purchases, regarding safety and noise, so as to spur them to make environmentally conscious choices.

In the meantime, the European Counsel is discussing the proposed directive that aims to promote public contracts for “clean” vehicles, thus improving the current norms that date back to 2009, with the aim of introducing minimal objectives for public contracts on “green” vehicles for 2025 and 2030.

More news in the field of certifications: from the 5th of October 2018 the European Commission guide for EMAS certifications will be operative, outlining best practices from an environmental point of view in the agricultural sector. 

Finally, two things to highlight on Reach (the 2006 regulation for the authorisation and registration of chemical substances). The first regards the proposal to ban the emission into the market of products containing percentages of “phthalates” above 0.1% in weight. The second addresses new tariffs for businesses for the approval of new chemical substances with the regulation 2018/895/EU and in vigour since 16th July 2018.  

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