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The European Commission has opened legal proceedings against 11 member states for implementing the Single-Use Plastics Directive too slowly.

They are: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, France, Croatia, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Finland. None had yet told the Commission how they proposed to fully implement the Directive.

They have two months to take the necessary measures before the Commission may decide to refer them to the Court of Justice, which can impose fines.

Single-use plastic products are accumulating in oceans and on beaches where they are more likely to end up than are reusable products.

The Commission said this meant more than 80% of marine litter items are plastics, causing damage to the environment, in particular marine life and birds. When dissolved to microplastics, they can enter the human food chain. 

It said the Directive entered into force on 3 July 2019 and member states had two years to include its provisions in their national laws, but the 11 had failed to do so.

Last January, the Commission launched proceedings against 16 countries over failure to implement the Directive but, since then, Spain, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Slovakia had complied.

The Commission said its action against the 11 states “aims to protect citizens and the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation. 

“It supports the transition to a more sustainable and circular economy, and helps place Europe’s businesses and consumers ahead as a world leader in producing and using sustainable alternatives that avoid marine litter and oceans pollution, tackling a problem with global implications.”

Measures to be taken under the Directive include: preventing single-use plastic products from being placed on the market when sustainable alternatives are easily available and affordable; establishing extended producer responsibility schemes for single-use plastic products; collecting 90% of single-use plastic beverage bottles by 2029; and the introduction of labelling requirements for single-use cups, sanitary products and tobacco products.

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