What is Plastic? A Study Exploring the Potential for Certain Materials to be Considered as Exempt from the Single Use Plastics Directive, with Particular Focus on Man-Made Cellulosic Fibres

21st January 2020

by Simon Hann, Hannah Gillie, Joe Papineschi, Lauren Duffield, Paul Marsh, Caroline Bradley

This report supports the summary report What is Plastic? A Summary Report Exploring the Potential for Certain Materials to be Exempted from the Single Use Plastics Directive.

The EU Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Directive focuses on reducing plastic pollution from single-use items, particularly in the marine environment. In order to determine the scope of the materials covered by the Directive, a definition for plastic was compiled, which currently exempts “natural polymers that have not been chemically modified”.

This report examines the scope for two of these polymers, lyocell and viscose, to be included under the Directive, investigating both their chemical makeup and their behaviour in the natural environment. The research evaluates the body of evidence for the environmental impact of these polymers when used in wet wipes, with a particular focus on the marine environment and the material’s biodegradability. Researchers found that there is not sufficient evidence to prove that these materials will not have a similarly detrimental impact on the environmenta as a synthetic plastic product.

The report goes on to identify the current market for these materials, and the impact of an extended producer responsibility (EPR) system on these markets as part of the SUP Directive regulations.

A series of recommendations are made by the report for consideration prior to the implementation of the SUP Directive by Member States.

Read the report here.