Single-Use Plastic Report Estimates Scale of EU Consumption

8th December 2017

Seas at Risk, an umbrella organisation of European environmental NGOs which promotes marine protection, has published a report on the scale of single-use plastic consumption in Europe created with assistance from Eunomia.

The report, entitled Single-use Plastics and the Marine Environment, represents the first attempt to create a picture of single-use plastic consumption in Europe based on consumption estimates for key items of plastic pollution. The report makes a number of estimates, indicating for example that the annual consumption of beverage bottles across the 28 European Member States is likely to be around 46 billion.

By using market data from around Europe, Eunomia extrapolated up to Europe-wide consumption figures for some of the worst offenders in terms of marine plastics, namely: plastic bottles, coffee cups and lids, drinking straws, takeaway packaging and cigarette butts. Individual consumption estimates were also made for the North East Atlantic, Black Sea, Mediterranean and Baltic regional sea areas. In addition to making first estimates for consumption, the report also presents case studies of successful litter prevention initiatives and makes recommendations for how legislation can drive reductions in plastic consumption and so reduce marine plastic pollution.

Senior Consultant and report author Chiarina Darrah said:

“This is the first study of its kind and although it offers estimate figures – there’s no doubt the scale of plastic consumption is huge, and there are tried and tested policy measures available that if implemented would have instant results. I have no doubt Seas at Risk will use this research to engage and inspire stakeholders to take action.”

The reduction measures recommended include introducing reduction targets for a range of single-use plastic items – similar to those already in place for plastic bags – greater producer responsibility to cover both litter prevention and clean up, measures to mandate reusables at public events, and that data on the quantities of single-use plastic items on the market be made available in order to better enable reduction efforts.

Eunomia was commissioned to support Seas at Risk in its efforts in petitioning European legislators to introduce ambitious policies that would help protect the marine environment. As the report notes, if Europe was to drastically reduce its consumption of single-use plastic items – which are the most likely to be littered – then it would effectively eliminate a major source of marine pollution in all of its seas.

Emma Priestland, Marine Litter Policy Officer at Seas at Risk said: “

‘Too often marine litter measures are focused on clean up or awareness raising, but when we look at what is found on beaches, a significant proportion is single use plastic items. It makes sense that reducing the prevalence of things like straws, bottles, coffee cups and cigarette butts will benefit our seas. Now we have a better idea of the consumption of these items that are used across Europe, we can advocate for legislation to tackle them.

“The background study will be very useful to SAR and our membership to inform our work for years to come. The investigation has highlighted a number of policies that should be prioritising reducing single use plastic items but are not, for example in EU green public procurement policy or Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes as they currently stand.”