Warning Label for Single-Use Plastics

Many single-use plastic products will be banned in the EU starting July 2021. Some others that cannot currently be banned will in future bear a special label warning of environmental damage caused by plastic. This is what the federal cabinet in Germany has now decided.

The federal cabinet in Germany has approved a labeling ordinance for single-use plastics. According to this, warning labels are to be clearly integrated into the layout of the packaging of products containing plastic starting July 3, 2021. From July on, manufacturers of articles containing plastics will no longer be allowed to place unlabeled products on the market. The labeling consists of a pictogram and a text identifying the respective product category. Following the decision in the cabinet, the ordinance still has to pass the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. The regulations are then scheduled to come into force across Europe on July 3, 2021, along with the ban on single-use plastics.

“We want to prevent careless throwing away of plastic packaging and articles,” said Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze. “Because disposable products in particular end up in nature or in the sewage system far too often. This throwaway mentality must stop.” Many consumers are often unaware that some products contain plastic, she said. “That’s what we’re educating people about with the new warnings and showing them the environmental damage that improper disposal causes.”

Disposable beverage cups also affected

Starting off are hygiene products such as pads, tampons, tampon applicators and wet wipes, tobacco products with plastic-containing filters or plastic-containing filters for use in tobacco products, and disposable beverage cups. These products are among the most problematic wastes that are particularly likely to pollute European Union beaches, according to the German Environment Ministry. Other products could be added to the regulation later. However, an EU-wide ban has so far been out of the question for these products because there are currently no more ecologically sound alternatives for them.

Manufacturers were granted a transitional period until July 3, 2022, during which they can temporarily affix non-removable stickers to their products. In this way, products that have already been manufactured but not yet sold by the manufacturer can be labeled. Sales of unlabeled products by distributors will remain possible after the deadline. This is to prevent the need to destroy goods that are fit for use. Since products must be labeled throughout the EU and the import of unlabeled products from non-EU countries will be prohibited in the future, it will be ensured that unlabeled products gradually disappear from the market.

Lids and containers to be firmly joined

In addition, the Single-Use Plastic Labeling Regulation stipulates that caps and lids of plastic beverage containers must be firmly connected to the beverage container from July 3, 2024. This new rule is designed to prevent disconnected caps and lids from ending up in the environment.

The new labeling regulation complements the “Einwegkunststoffverbotsverordnung” (Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Bylaw), which transposes the European Single-Use Plastic Directive into German law. According to this, a ban on single-use plastic will apply in Europe from July 3, 2021 for cotton swabs (excluding medical devices), cutlery, plates, drinking straws (excluding medical devices), stirrers, balloon wands, to-go food containers made of expanded polystyrene (EPS), beverage cups and containers made of expanded polystyrene (EPS), and all products made of oxo-degradable plastic.

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