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EU plastics pollution proposal ‘fails to address’ hazardous substances

Products - Plastic bottles ©monticello - 123RF stock photo

The European Commission’s recently announced draft laws to tackle plastics pollution fail to address the presence of hazardous substances used in single-use plastic products, an NGO has said.

The EU executive says it is targeting the ten such products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. The new rules will introduce provisions including:

  • plastic ban on certain products: this will apply to plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons which will have to be made exclusively from more sustainable materials;
  • consumption reduction targets: member states will have to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups;
  • obligations for producers: they will help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness-raising measures for packaging and food contact materials. Industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products; and
  • awareness-raising measures: member states will be required to raise consumer awareness on the negative impact of littering from single-use plastics.

But the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said that hazardous substances in the products must be addressed because they can "easily leak" into the environment and food chain.

"Our daily exposure to toxic chemicals used in food packaging and bottles can lead to chronic diseases," Elise Vitali, a chemicals expert at the EEB, said. "A comprehensive strategy must tackle the effects of these single-use plastics on people’s health."

However, the issue of hazardous chemicals in food contact materials and packaging is rising up the agenda. A group of NGOs, including CHEM Trust and ChemSec, has recently collaborated on a project to investigate their presence in plastic packaging.

And in February, the Commission published its amending Regulation on the use of bisphenol A in varnishes and coatings intended to come into contact with food that sets a migration limit of 0.05mg of BPA per kg of food.

MEPs had voted to reject a motion that had called for a total ban on BPA in FCMs at the beginning of the year.

There will now be a three-month scrutiny period by the European Parliament and Council before adoption.

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