Civil society and the tobacco industry have given a cautious welcome to new plans designed to reduce plastic pollution in Europe.
It comes after a parliamentary committee last week adopted a report by Belgian MEP Frederique Ries which aims to curb litter from the most commonly found single-use plastics on Europe’s beaches.
Under the draft rules backed by the environment committee, single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery or cotton buds, which make up over 70 percent of marine litter, will be banned.
On Friday, reaction to the outcome of the vote came from Giovanni Carucci, vice president of EU Affairs with British American Tobacco (BAT), who told this website, “Reducing the environmental impact of single use plastics is a laudable goal.
“We are committed to reducing our environmental impact across our supply chain. While we need time to analyse the full impact of the proposal, what I can say is that in its current form, it is not entirely workable.
Carucci said, “As the Commission acknowledges in its own impact assessment, today an alternative for cigarette filters that is as effective as cellulose acetate does not exist.
“We’ve researched alternatives for years, including collaborating with sustainable filter start-ups and other external companies, however none of the alternatives match the performance of cellulose acetate and will likely be in breach of the requirements of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).
“This makes the Parliament’s proposed consumption reduction targets a de facto ban on cigarettes, which is not in the scope of the Single Use Plastics Directive.”
“As the Commission acknowledges in its own impact assessment, today an alternative for cigarette filters that is as effective as cellulose acetate does not exist" Giovanni Carucci, vice president of EU Affairs with British American Tobacco
Carucci added, “As part of tobacco regulations in the EU, health warnings already dominate tobacco product packaging – therefore while there might be ample room for marking requirements on other products singled out, this is not the case for tobacco product packaging. While consumer awareness is vital, any additional markings on the pack will be lost among the health warnings.
“In order to comply with this proposed Directive, we would be in breach of the TPD because in order to ensure markings are conspicuous, clearly legible and indelible they will need to cover a substantial part of the pack.
“Because the proposed Extended Producer Responsibility scheme remains vague and because of the lack of much-needed clarifications, we may end up required to comply with 27 different schemes which may result in a disproportionate cost and complexity for industry and member states.”
Elsewhere, the CoR's rapporteur on the issue, Spyros Spyridon, said: "Cleaner seas mean sustainable economic development, particularly in the tourism sector, which is a mainstay of the economy of Greece and very important to many other EU countries.”
Spyridon said, “Ships should be obliged to deliver waste at sea ports, and we need to all sea ports to be able to handle waste at a reasonable cost. The challenge is to create incentives to deliver waste to ports, without placing an excessive financial burden on ships or introducing additional procedures or other time-consuming provisions.
“Overall, the Commission's proposals achieve these objectives. The proposals also simplify and clarify the rules, and so they should remove many of the ambiguities for shippers, port authorities and waste handlers."
A commission spokesman said, “More than 80 percent of marine litter is plastics. Together they constitute 70 per cent of all marine litter items. Due to its slow decomposition, plastic accumulates in seas, oceans and on beaches in the EU and worldwide.
“Plastic residue is found in marine species – such as sea turtles, seals, whales and birds, but also in fish and shellfish, and therefore in the human food chain.
“While plastics are a convenient, adaptable, useful and economically valuable material, they need to be better used, re-used and recycled.”
The Ries report will be put to a vote by the full plenary in its 22-25 October session in Strasbourg.