The European Parliament Environment Committee voted today to amend the commission’s proposal on the reduction of the impact of plastics on the environment. This proposal aims to prevent littering from 10 single-use plastic products frequently found on Europe’s beaches.
Christian Verschueren, director of EuroCommerce, an agency representing for six million retail, wholesale, and other trading companies in Europe, says he regrest the lack of proper focus in the amendments.
Despite strong concerns raised by players in the entire supply chain, the commission proposal and amendments to it fail to hit the right targets for how to reduce littering. Most of the proposed amendments suggest simplistic solutions which will do nothing to help prevent plastic products leaking into the environment.
“It is astonishing to see so many measures are being proposed in this Directive and the EP amendments, but how few actually tackle littering effectively. It is as if the core objectives of this Directive got lost somewhere in the politically-driven debate," he says. "This is a missed opportunity for Europe, and for finding real solutions to the problems of plastic pollution.”
A particular concern for retailers and wholesalers is the report’s almost exclusive reliance on Extended Producer Responsibility to finance clean-up costs, where these were formerly dealt with by local authorities. The proposal also expands the number of separate waste streams to an almost absurd extent – to include balloons, tobacco products and even wet wipes. Quite apart from the feasibility of creating individual schemes for each of these products, and questions of hygiene and health risks, this will have a massive cost and is unlikely to have any appreciable effect in reducing litter.
The Commission Impact Assessment itself estimates the clean-up cost of, for example, wet wipes at up to €24.000 per ton, which would have to be added to the cost of these and all the many products covered by the proposal and the amendments.
Overall, the commission estimates that its original proposal could cost retailers up to an additional €10million, which some consider a modest estimate. "Whatever the final cost to our sector and the consumers who will have to pay more, this will be a wasted effort if it cannot provide some certainty that it will change people’s antisocial behaviour and stop them littering these products. As the proposal stands at the moment, our sector sees no prospect that it will," Verschueren adds.