A ban on all disposable packaging

Finally - packaging made from single-use plastic will bebanned across the EU from 03 July 2021 .The new regulation covers the production of various disposable items such as drinking straws or cotton buds and includes products made of bioplasticsin addition to conventionalplastic. Why bioplastics are included in the ban and to what extent they from conventional plastic, we explain in thisWe explain in this article.

Boy collects plastic on the beach

A first Approachfor a major problem

The impact of plastic on animals, humans and the environment is taking on drastic proportions and poses a global threat. Through improper disposal and other means, plastics enter nature. This results not only in visible pollution due to the masses of large and small plastic fragments, but also in health hazards for various living creatures.

While marine creatures in particular often mistake plastic waste for their food and starve to death, plastics in the form of microplastics have now also found their way into the human food chain. Whether on arable land, in our drinking water or in the air - microplastics can be found everywhere in our immediate environment. The effects on the human organism have only been researched to a limited extent so far, but there are indications of carcinogenic and hormonal effects.

Despite these extensive environmental and health impacts, global plastic production continues to increase with each passing year. To give you a sense of the volumes involved, here are some facts from the National Geographic organisation:

  • There are already more than five trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans."[1]
  • "Global plastic production has increased from 2.1 million tonnes in 1950 to 406 million tonnes in 2015."[1]
  • "The biggest market for plastic is packaging materials. This waste now accounts for half of the plastic waste produced worldwide. Much of it will never be recycled or incinerated."[1] 
Plastic in the sea

The problem of the increasingproduction and sales volumes of plastics and the and the associatedn negative effectsn on our environment is further aggravated by the long shelf life of these materials. Depending on the plastic used and the product made from it the service life between 20 years for thin plastic bags and up to 450 yearsn for plastic bottles.[2] Since conventional plastics cannot be degraded in a manageable time frame, the di can be degraded in a manageable time frame, thetotal quantity of plastic articles andThis further exacerbates the associated problems.

A step forward

The EU is taking an important first step in reducing the use of single-use plastics.m to the growing plastic flood . With this measure manufacturers and consumersforced to rethink and the development of alternative for disposableproducts. In detail, thehe ban the production of

  • "Disposable plastic cutlery and crockery,
  • Plastic drinking straws, stirring sticks, cotton buds and balloon sticks,
  • To-go beverage cups, fast food packaging and disposable polystyrene food containers."[3]

In addition to conventional, fossil-based plastics such as polypropylen (PP) or Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) the ban also includes the production of the aforementioned disposable products from bioplastics such as Polylactide (PLA) a. This decision is an important step in the right directiondirection, as in general any kind ofsuperfluous disposableproductsproducts should be avoided. On the other hand raises the equal treatment of bioplastics with conventional plastics. plastics the question whether and to what extent these be put on an equal footing can be equalised.

Graphic for EU ban on single-use plastics

Why bioplastics are not all the same

The blanket environmental compatibility of bioplastics must be critically questioned, as they differ significantly in their properties and environmental compatibility. As already explained in detail in our blog on bioplastics, bioplastics are either bio-based, biodegradable or both.

But what exactly is behind the terms biodegradability and biobasedness? Biobased plastics consist of renewable raw materials such as maize or wood.. Their counterparts are fossil-based plastics, which are obtained from finite resources such as petroleum. Biodegradability is when a plastic can be broken down to its smallest components, such as the molecules of CO2 and H20 completely decomposes. How long this process takes depends on the type and layer thickness of the material as well as external factors such as temperature and soil conditions.

The perfect conditions for the biodegradation of bioplastics are, however, seldom found.are rarely found in the in the nature or in the sea. Depending on thetype of bioplastic it is found in marine environments home compost or in industrial composting plants. degradable. The almost complete decomposition within a few weeks is only in only guaranteed in industrial composting, as here the corresponding parameters such as temperature and moisturemoisture in a targeted concan be controlled in a targeted manner. For thisHowever, it must be ensured that bioplastics are properly disposed of, which brings us leads us to the next topic.

Exhaust gases from incinerators

Resources and recycling

Momentally, Germany is focusing on solving the plastic problem through recycling. The idea behind this is quite simple: plastic is collected and reused, creating a continuing cycle. In practice, however, only 2% of plastic packaging is reused on at least an equivalent basis. This means that 98% of recyclable plastic is recycled at a reduced value or even not recycled at all.[4] The idea is simple.

The reason for this low recycling rate is that materials must be as pure as possible and completely empty of residues in order to be reused. Another disadvantage is that conventional plastic cannot be recycled forever and will eventually be incinerated. In the process, CO2 bound in the material is released, which in turn pollutes the earth's atmosphere.[5] The concept of recycling is therefore possible in theory, but in practice it can hardly be implemented in its entirety.

Biobased, biodegradable plastics have immense advantages here compared to conventional plastics. Since renewable raw materials are used in production, fossil resources are conserved. In addition, plants that may be used for the production of bioplastics bind CO2. At the same time, biodegradable plastics are unproblematic to dispose of because they can be completely decomposed under the right conditions..

the rezemo capsule set in scene

Our conclusion on the EU Regulation

Bioplastics therefore have significant advantages over conventional plastics and are by no means to be equated with them. Regulations that impose a blanket ban on (single-use) packaging are therefore problematic in that they neglect the responsibility of bioplastics. As a general rule, disposable packaging should be used as rarely as possible. However, if plastic packaging is nevertheless used, it should be made of bio-based and biodegradable material.


[1] National Geographic [online] retrieved 10.06.2021 from https://www.nationalgeographic.de/10-erschreckende-fakten-uber-plastik

[2] Suhr, F.(2019) Plastic lasts forever in the oceans [online] retrieved 10.06.2021 from [https://de.statista.com/infografik/17508/haltbarkeit-von-plastikmuell-im-meer/

[3] Federal Government (05.2021) [online] retrieved 10.06.2021 https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/themen/nachhaltigkeitspolitik/einwegplastik-wird-verboten-1763390

4] loop forewood. Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2014) THE NEW PLASTICS ECONOMY

[5] Institute for Social-Ecological Research (2019). [online] retrieved on 11.06.2021 https://www.isoe.de/aktuelles/news/detail-all/news/alltagsprodukte-aus-plastik-chemikalienmix-aus-schaedlichen-und-unbekannten-substanzen/

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