Break Free From Plastic

Go for reusables in July


02 Jul 2019

Written by

Oskar Olczak


As every year since 2011, Plastic Free July invites you to take the challenge and refuse single-use plastics. It’s a worldwide initiative where you can show your support by involving in different activities. Zero Waste Europe encourages you to participate and set the example for others to follow.

We will also celebrate the International Plastic Bag Free Day on the 3rd of July. Because what symbolises the current plastic crisis better than an omni-present single-use plastic bag? It has even been found at the bottom of Mariana Trench at 10.926 m under the water surface.

A recent landmark legislation paves the way


This spring, the EU approved a new pioneering legislation to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics products across Europe while also addressing pollution from those products (in this post referred to as SUP for Single Use Plastic Directive). These new rules on the consumption, design and management of single-use plastics include:

  • A ban across Europe on single-use plastic cutlery, plates, straws, cotton bud sticks, plastic balloon sticks as well as on-the-go food containers and beverage cups in expanded polystyrene Effective as of July 2021.
  • An obligation to attach the cap to the bottles by 2024 and to collect separately 90% of plastic bottles by 2029.
  • The obligation for the producers of a number of single-use plastics (such as packets and wrappers, plastic bags, bottles and cups) to cover the costs of waste collection and treatment of those products as well as the costs linked to clean-ups (through so called EPR – Extended Producer Responsibility).

In other words companies such as Coca Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé (the three most notorious polluters as established in a recent brand audit), will have to pay for the costs of waste management and cleanup of their bottles.

What’s important the new rules apply to all the single-use plastics listed in the legislation, regardless of whether they are made from fossil fuel (conventional plastics) or from plants (bio-based plastics) and regardless of whether they are compostable or not. Complementary measures related to labelling and awareness on the reusable alternatives are available in this detailed analysis.

Bio-based and so called “biodegradable” plastics are not a solution to plastic pollution, the sustainable solution lies in reduction and reuse.

How can our governments make it a reality?


Those new ambitious goals will only help solve single use plastic problem if countries across Europe actually implement them taking proactive approach. The EU legislation leaves room for manoeuvre for countries on which measures to adopt to achieve the objectives described above.

We can see that as flexibility but it also creates risk of countries not taking specific steps aimed at reaching set targets.

That’s why Zero Waste Europe encourages countries to ban on-the-go food containers and cups, or to at least adopt high reduction targets by 2025. Zero Waste Europe also encourages governments to set deposit-return scheme for bottles, to ensure their collection and reuse. This also applies to other plastic products such as cups and take away food containers.

Establishing strong producer responsibility is also key to ensure that producers bear the costs related to management and clean-up of their plastics. Governments can incentivise companies to redesign their products and delivery systems by making sure that the producers of non-recyclable or hard to recycle products, contribute more. That can be achieved, for example, through a bonus-malus system also called eco modulation.


Future steps

There are many ways you can reduce pollution before the official regulations come into force. Start by switching to reusables (bags, bottles, etc.)

and refusing single use plastic (straws, cutlery, etc.). Using a refillable bottle and canvas bags does not impact your lifestyle or make it harder. It might look like a small drop in an ocean (of plastic) but if we all come together and do it, it will really make the difference!

Plastic Free July is the perfect occasion to give it a go and help the environment we’re all a part of! Follow #breakfreefromplastic