On 22 September, the Rethink Plastic alliance and the Break Free From Plastic movement have released an annual assessment tracking the progress scored by EU countries in adopting national measures to phase out single-use plastic, in line with the obligations of the Single-Use Plastic Directive.
The report reveals that important progress has been made by the majority of EU countries, but significant steps are still expected from national authorities in terms of policy ambition as well as legislative enforcement.
The EU legislation to address single-use plastic pollution has the potential to be world leading. But this will only be possible if governments address the remaining gaps.Frédérique Mongodin, Senior Marine Litter Policy Officer at Seas At Risk
The report shows that the top performers of 2021, Greece, France and Sweden, were joined in 2022 by Luxembourg, Cyprus, Slovenia, Latvia, Denmark and Portugal. Some of these countries even show higher ambition than what was required by the EU Directive, notably on measures to achieve consumption reduction.
Meanwhile, Finland and Poland are lagging behind, while Croatia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic still do not show sufficient ambition. The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Estonia, Romania, Hungary and Belgium are also overlooking some of the key measures. In this landscape, some countries stand out for having breached the Directive in their transposition, such as Italy, which exempted biodegradable plastics from some of its measures.
Across all EU Member States, the report shows more efforts are needed on the enforcement of adopted bans, as banned items are still found on the market as a result of greenwashing strategies and stocks being sold off. On consumption reduction, it remains unclear how some countries will achieve this ambitious objective without setting targets, while countries that are investing in and promoting reuse options are those showing the most potential for success.
Surprisingly, the report also finds that most EU countries did not set national awareness raising strategies and left it to plastic and packaging manufacturers to achieve awareness objectives. “Making awareness raising campaigns the responsibility of plastic producers is a mistake. The citizens of tomorrow should not only be able to drop their plastic litter in the right place, but also, and most of all, be informed about and have the option to choose alternatives to single-use. This cultural change cannot be achieved by producers due to an intrinsic conflict of interest”, said Frédérique Mongodin, Senior Marine Litter Policy Officer at Seas at Risk.
On Extended Producers’ responsibility, most countries are still a long way from complying with their obligations in time for the 2023 and 2024 deadlines. “Member States not only have the responsibility to transpose the Directive but also, to make sure measures they take are implemented in time and enforced”, said Gaëlle Haut, EU affairs coordinator at Surfrider Europe Foundation.