15 July 2021 • 5 min

Juliette Kuiken

Europe’s Beach Clean: EU Rules to Fight Plastic Litter and How Businesses Need to Adapt

By Juliette Kuiken, Head of Trade The Netherlands, Department for International Trade (DIT)

This summer new EU rules to fight plastic litter came into force in all EU member states.

EU businesses need to adapt what they buy, and their suppliers need to be aware of the changes, the banned products and new labelling requirements.

There is increasing demand from consumers for greener products and packaging, and these new laws will only accelerate the demand for new solutions. Rather than simply consuming other disposables, the market is looking for more re-usable solutions and ways to recycle more.


Water Bottle

Two years ago the EU directive on single-use plastics came into force to tackle the 10 single-use plastic items most found on Europe’s beaches. The Directive announced a ban on certain single-use plastic products and marking requirements by July of this year.

In line with the Directive, The Netherlands, Ireland, Greece and other Member States are implementing the new rules on the use of Single-Use Plastics (SUP). Some others, including Portugal and France, had already introduced (parts of the) directive.


Ban on specific single-use plastics

For The Netherlands and other EU markets, the new rules mean that you can no longer market certain products, including plastic cutlery, stirrers and straws in the EU market (see full list from the Dutch government here). The products affected are listed as the most found plastic products on Europe’s beaches.

The rationale behind the ban is that there are more sustainable products available: foodservice wholesalers have already started promoting the use of alternative disposables made of cardboard, sugar cane, wood or bamboo. Other companies may consider using fewer disposables in general and work with re-usable products instead.


Educating the consumer

For other plastic products the sustainable alternatives are not yet available enough and for those categories the focus is on informing the user, waste management and reducing consumption. As of July 3rd 2021, manufacturers therefore need to label certain other plastic (containing) products, including drinking cups, tobacco products with filters, wet wipes and tampons, to inform the consumer that they contain plastics and explain how to dispose of them. Producers need to ensure they use the standard markings in the relevant language.


Expanding the deposit scheme

Another EU Directive, the Packaging Directive, states a 50% recycling target for plastic packaging by 2025 and 55% by 2030. In the context of this Directive, the Dutch have in July of this year also expanded their deposit scheme for plastic bottles to include small (

Up to this point the market had a deposit scheme for just the plastic bottles of 1-3 litres, charging 25 cents per bottle. The expanded scheme is to include small bottles of soft drinks and bottled water, not dairy or juice, of which around 900 million items are sold per year in The Netherlands, and of which 1 in 9 ended up in the environment. The expectation is that the new regulation will lead to a 90% recycling rate.

If you are a UK supplier of drinks in plastic bottles selling to The Netherlands you need to check with your importer that bottles are correctly labelled. The manufacturer is responsible for the implementation. Supermarkets, shops at railways stations and petrol stations are obliged to accept the empty bottles. Schools and sports club can participate voluntarily.


Further steps towards 2025

A roadmap of further steps to fight plastic waste in The Netherlands in the coming years can be found here. Next steps include Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for plastic drinking cups, bags, wrappers, meal containers and wet wipes, the requirement to fasten lids and caps to plastic bottles, but also a 25% minimum recycled material content for PET bottles. Producers will be required to carry part of the costs for waste collection and disposal.

In parallel, the Dutch government is looking at policy to fight the waste of canned beverages and it is expected that a deposit scheme for canned beverages will be introduced in 2022.


The Anglo-Dutch dialogue

Our pre-pandemic event in 2020 was the Beyond Plastics seminar in Amsterdam where we brought together UK and Dutch government representatives and businesses to discuss the challenges and opportunities of reducing plastic waste from a commercial and policy angle.

The UK was ahead of the curve when it launched the world’s first plastics pact, the UK Plastics Pact, in 2018, inspiring the Dutch Plastics Pact in 2019 and followed by the Europe (EEA) Plastics Pact established last year, combining the efforts of 20 European countries. The UK based organisation WRAP is the driving force behind these pacts, connecting governments and businesses.

Last year we concluded that there is still much to do and solve through policy and innovation. Responsible waste management of single-use plastic products is an important step and the policies are a great achievement, but more is needed.

Some key remaining challenges mentioned were: the variety of plastics used, how to treat mixed packaging (e.g. paper-plastic mix), the recycling process for biodegradable plastics, waste management logistics and the price of virgin plastic versus recycled plastics.



At the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this year, countries from around the world will meet to discuss the road to net zero carbon emissions. In that context sustainable consumption is an important topic too as different parts of the global consumer goods supply chain contribute to carbon emissions.

Governments and industry need to carefully look at global supply chains to make sure that the logistics of waste management do not push carbon emissions up, that existing synthetic materials are re-used more, not burned, and that alternatives to plastic do not lead to further deforestation. Together we can build back better by consuming fewer and more sustainable products.


Looking for new suppliers?

UK companies are at the forefront of creating the most cutting-edge sustainable products and packaging. Our trade advisers across Europe can discuss your procurement needs and suggest UK suppliers, whether it is food packaging, product design, re-usable coffee cups or sustainable fashion. Even coffee capsules made of seaweed. Contact us to find relevant suppliers for your business.


Support to UK exporters

Our DIT teams across Europe are here to support UK suppliers with enquiries about exporting to the different EU member states. Contact the Europe Trade Hub team to find the relevant contact per country.

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