During an event held in Brussels, Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) and Reloop presented a new study conducted by Eunomia: „What is plastic? A study exploring the potential for certain materials to be considered as exempt from the Single Use Plastics Directive, with particular focus on man-made cellulosic fibres“, on the definition of plastics, exemptions to the Directive and a series of loopholes and material substitutions which could significantly undermine its goal.
The Eunomia study, analysing the case of wet wipes as they offer a good example of potential substitution with alternative materials (lyocell and viscose), focuses on polymers covered, or not, by the term ‚plastic‘. Exempting materials with similar environmental impacts from the Directive’s scope, could incentives manufacturers to opt for material substitions which would absolve them from having to finance the cost of litter clean-up, transport and treatment and the cost of awareness-raising activities.
Alongside the study, a joint Policy Briefing signed by ZWE and Reloop was published with the intent to provide the European Commission with clear recommendations on the implementation phase. Both publications stress the importance of the ongoing discussions around the definition of plastic in determining which singles prodcuts fall within the scope of regulation because depending on the interpretation, some SUP items will be excluded.
At the end of the day, if such material substition happens in the conditions stated above, the impact of the SUV legislation would be substantially reduced and could even backfire in environmental terms.
„In order to avoid material substitution and obtain a real impact in the economy and the environment in the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Commission should implement an approach to products and waste that is not only material specific but also system oriented. This is possible only by addressing the impacts not only of single-use plstic but of all single-use products, and creating a legislative framework for reuse operations that provides for an organised transition from single use applications towards durable, efficient systems“, said Joan Marc Simon, executive director Zero Waste Europe.
„It is also imperative that member states introduce in national law, a precautionary approach to the exemption of materials or products considered not to be single-use plastic, with a high burden of proof to be applied“, added Clarissa Morawski, CEO Reloop.