Once today’s provisional political agreement is formalised, the Commission’s proposal will be published in the EU Official Journal and the member states will have to transpose it after two years.
The EU says its plastic strategy and directive on single-use plastics is the most ambitious legal instrument in the world addressing the issue of marine litter.
Where alternatives are easily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market. This includes plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, sticks for balloons, products made of oxo-degradable plastic and food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene.
"Tackling the plastics problem is a must,” said vice-president Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness. “At the same time it brings new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation.”
“With the agreement reached today we are showing that Europe is doing a smart economic and environmental choice and is advancing towards a new truly circular plastics economy."
Commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, Karmenu Vella said: "When we have a situation where one year you can bring your fish home in a plastic bag, and the next year you are bringing that bag home in a fish, we have to work hard and work fast.
“So I am happy that with the agreement of today between Parliament and Council. We have taken a big stride towards reducing the amount of single-use plastic items in our economy, our ocean and ultimately our bodies."
Each year, Europe generates more than 25m tonnes of plastic waste, and less than 30% of this is recycled. Plastic accounts for 85% of beach litter while microplastics are known to contaminate our food and drinking water.
EuroCommerce, the trade association that represents the interests of Europe’s retail and wholesale sector, said it welcomed the EU's action but was still concerned at broadened producer responsibility.
"The retail and wholesale sector […] continues to have strong doubts on the whether the waste and litter management systems suggested in the final compromise will work. These concerns are centred in particular on extended producer responsibility for cleaning up litter and paying for the infrastructure and operation of collection systems."
EuroCommerce Director-General Verschueren said: “Our sector’s commitment to sustainable use of plastics is absolutely clear, and we will continue to do all we can to respond to our customers’ demand for safe and sustainable products. We will, of course, observe the legislation, but must warn that there are elements which expect retailers to take responsibility for issues such as littering over which they can only have limited influence.”