Promising interventions to reduce single-use plastics

The Dutch government has until 2021 to implement the EU’s Single Use Plastics (SUP) directive. Article 4 of the directive is concerned with reducing consumption of SUP, particularly cups (and their caps/lids) and food packaging for ready-made meals. In this connection the Dutch ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management commissioned a study to review knowledge of plastics use and relevant policy measures in place at home and abroad. There is little knowledge available on the use of specific types of packaging like cups and food packaging, though there is considerably more quantitative data on plastic flows and packaging in general and coffee cups in particular.

This study reviews over 30 policy interventions in the Netherlands and elsewhere to reduce SUP use, deployable by either government or industry. Nine of these interventions were analysed in more detail and assessed qualitatively and indicatively as to their impact, legal feasibility and financial consequences. One interesting option is to introduce a ban on free issue of throwaway beverage cups, as was done earlier for plastic shopping bags. A minimum price of, say, 15 Euro cents (enough to be noticeable by consumers) is an appealing policy measure. While this might be extended to other types of packaging, there is no experience on this. An alternative is to introduce a deposit on packaging. Experiments with ‘zero-plastic zones’ on beaches and at stations, for example, are interesting options for gaining experience with alternatives to single-use plastics and would allow consumers to grow accustomed to a new situation.