Single-use plastic products
Ingredients, materials, and material consumption as well as total consumption volume are the primary areas of focus when environmental authorities choose producer responsibility as a regulatory tool. When there are certain exemptions from the rules, they are primarily motivated by products being covered by other producer responsibility regimes, similar legislation, safety considerations, or special logistics. Certain product groups, however, are exempted for other reasons, such as material composition.
Single-use plastic products
Ten product types
Cotton bud sticks cutlery, plates, chopsticks, straws balloons and sticks for balloons food containers cups for beverages beverages containers wrappers tobacco product filters plastic bags wet wipes and sanitary articlesSee the full list
Scoping of single-use plastic products
Assessing whether a product is in scope or exempt from producer responsibility is a key task for the national registers, and thereby also for DPA. We provide guidance and make decisions regarding what in the EU is known as scoping – or in or out of scope.
Made wholly or partly from plastic
For products under the Single-Use Plastics Directive and the Packaging Directive especially the wordings “made wholly or partly from plastic” and the distinction between “single-use and multi-use” give scope for interpretation when your business is to assess whether your product is affected by legislation on single-use plastic products.
The EU Commission has prepared thorough guidelines; the most important findings are summarised below.
General exemptions from the directive’s scope are:
- Glass or metal beverage containers that have caps and lids made from plastic.
- Beverage containers and beverage bottles used for food for special medical purposes as defined in Regulation (EU) No 609/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council on food intended for infants and young children.
Further interpretation of the directive
The directive applies to:
- The ten above-mentioned single-use products
- AND to all products manufactured from oxo-degradable plastic (single as well as multi-use products)
- AND to fishing gear made of plastic.
Plastics consist of a number of structures in chains called polymers. The five polymers making up by far the largest share of single-use plastic products are:
- PP (polypropylene)
- HDPE (high-density polyethylene)
- LDPE (low-density polyethylene)
- LLDPE (linear low-density polyethylene)
- PET (polyethylene terephthalate)
To this should be added:
- EPS (expanded polystyrene, also called styrofoam)
In the directive guidelines, the definition of plastics covered reads among others:
“Plastics manufactured with modified natural polymers, or plastics manufactured from bio-based, fossil or synthetic starting substances are not naturally occurring and should therefore be addressed by this Directive. The adapted definition of plastics should therefore cover polymer-based rubber items and bio-based and biodegradable plastics regardless of whether they are derived from biomass or are intended to biodegrade over time.”
More information can be found in the source: Commission guidelines on single-use plastic products in accordance with Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment
According to the directive, a single-use plastic product means a product that is designed or placed on the market to accomplish, within its life span, only one or a few trips before becoming waste. The product is made wholly or partly from plastic, and refilling or reuse is not intended.
Products made from different composite material types are also called composite products. For example, a plastic coating or lining can be applied to the surface of a board-based item to provide protection against water or fat. Cardboard plates and beverage cartons are examples of such composite products partly made from plastic. This type of product is covered by the directive.
There is no de minimis threshold
The directive does not have a minimum threshold for the plastic content in the product to determine whether or not that product is covered by the directive. Thereby, it is not decisive whether the product is made wholly from plastic or whether the main component is another material.
Check product design characteristics
As there is no minimum threshold, the general product design characteristics can be used to assess whether the product is a multi-use or a recyclable product that may thereby be exempt from the provisions of the directive.
A multi-use product must have the following product design characteristics:
- Can be washed and used again for the same purpose
- Can be washed or used several times without breaking
- Is conceived as a recyclable product
Thereby, product design characteristics such as material composition, washability and reparability and the product’s ability to make multiple trips for the same purpose can contribute to deciding whether or not the product is in scope.
Chemically modified or non-chemically modified
The guidelines mention a number of plastics to illustrate which plastics are covered by the directive, and which are not. Chemically modified plastics are covered by the Single-Use Plastics Directive.
Cellulose (regenerated), e.g. in form of viscose, lyocell and cellulosic film:
is not considered to be chemically modified, as the resulting polymers are not chemically modified compared to the ingoing polymer.
Cellulose acetate (i.a. tobacco product filters):
is considered to be chemically modified given that, compared to the ingoing natural polymer, the chemical modifications of cellulose during the production process remain present at the end of the production process. Consequently, this type of plastic is covered.
Styrofoam (expanded polystyrene, EPS):
Styrofoam is undesirable in the oceans, so EPS plastics are covered by the directive. The placing on the market of cups for beverages and food containers made from EPS plastic is prohibited.
Single-use plastic products that are also packaging
Single-use plastic products covered by the Single-Use Plastics Directive and that are also considered packaging (as defined by point (1) of Article 3 of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive) must comply with the requirements of both directives. In the event of a conflict between the two directives, the Single-Use Plastics Directive shall prevail.
In DPA we are happy to help and guide you; we also make decisions when you are in doubt about whether or not to make a registration.
See how to register as a producer or an importer in the producer register
Read about tobacco filters
Read about cigarette filters and tobacco product filters subject to producer responsibility for single-use plastic products
Economy and fees
See current fees for products subject to producer responsibility
Single-use plastic - legislation
See the statutory basis for producer responsibility for tobacco product filters (single-use plastic products)
Single-use plastic - product scoping
See which types of single-use plastic products are in scope and check out the exemptions (scoping).
Single-use plastic - marking
Read more about marking requirements for single-use plastic products
Et skodfrit Danmark (Denmark without cigarette butts)
See campaign from the Ministry of Environment against cigarette filters littering (in Danish)
Find producer registers in other EU countries