Single-Use Plastic Ban in the European Union

Abbie Burford

As a year has passed since the approval of the European Union’s Single-use Plastic Directive, Valpak’s International Account Manager, Abbie Burford, takes a closer look into the requirements of the legislation and how some Member States have already transposed the requirements or how they plan to transpose the regulations in the coming months.


The approval of the Single-Use Plastic Directive in October 2019 marked a huge shift in the EU’s environmental and waste management policy. Each Member State has until 3 July 2021 to adopt all aspects of the Directive into their national law. This requirement keeps to the original deadline determined at the approval of the legislation, despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The overall aim of the legislation is to phase out unnecessary single-use plastics, with the focus being on the top 10 products found on Europe’s beaches, such as cotton buds, straws, cups and cutlery. The ban also captures any products that are labelled “bio-based” or “biodegradable”, as there are no specific definitions of these terms and they can be misleading for consumers.

In addition to these goals, the EU envisages limiting the use of balloons, tobacco products, wet wipes and sanitary products by introducing Extended Producer Responsibility organisations (PROs) and labelling requirements to help consumers make more informed choices. They hope to encourage Member States to introduce economic incentives, such as plastic taxes, to promote a move away from single-use plastic packaging.

As with any EU Directive, each Member State’s interpretation and adoption of the law will differ slightly. To illustrate this, we have included below examples of where the Directive has already been implemented.


Single-use plastic cotton buds, cups and plates have been banned in France since 1 January 2020.

Production and sale of single-use plastic straws, cutlery, stirrers etc. will be banned from 1 January 2021.


The draft Ordinance on Banning Certain Disposable Products was submitted by the Federal Government earlier this year. The legislation is essentially Germany’s transposition of the EU Directive, including all the key products as well as food containers and beverage cups made of expanded polystyrene.

To date, the legislation is still going through the Reichstag, with an implementation date due to be confirmed soon.


Hungary has been looking at introducing the ban to come into place on 1 January 2021 and to include further products, such as plastic carrier bags. The legislation was presented to the Hungarian parliament in May but was not approved. Going forward, it is unclear when the proposal will be revisited.


Italy has delayed the implementation of their plastic tax to 1 January 2021, but they have disclosed information about how plastics will be categorised moving forwards:

Level A – Plastic packaging with existing recycling channels in place (Commerce and Industry)

Level B1 – Plastic packaging with existing recycling channels in place (Household)

Level B2 – Plastic packaging with effective recycling and sorting channels in development (Commerce and Industry, Household)

Level C – Plastic packaging which don’t currently have effective recycling/sorting channels, or these channels are in the early stages of development

Plastic which proves difficult to recycle or has no designated recycling channel will be charged at a higher levy to those materials which can be recycled easily.



Spain plans to adopt their new Waste Law in early 2021 which will transpose the ban of the Single-use Plastics Directive’s key products as well as microplastics in cosmetics. The law also includes the introduction of a plastic tax like Italy’s, which will impose a levy of €0.45 per kilo of single-use plastic packaging.

Wider European Countries

Despite not being members of the European Union, some countries are taking inspiration from the legislation and implementing their own single-use plastic bans.


Montenegro is in the process of drafting a new waste management law to implement both EPR and the Single-use Plastics Directive. The law will include the transposition of the Directive with the deadline for implementation being slightly behind the EU. The legislation is with the relevant Ministry in Montenegro and is awaiting approval from Brussels. It is expected to be adopted in early 2021.


Legislation has been proposed to mirror the EU Single-use Plastics Directive, but it is currently unknown when the regulations will take effect.

Valpak will keep all our customers up to date with information about the single use plastic bans as they are implemented across Europe.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this weblog represent those of the individual authors and not those of Valpak Limited or any other organisation.