In June of 2019, the European Union adopted a directive that targets the limitation of single-use plastics (SUPs) and marine litter. Two years later, Cyprus has yet to implement the Directive into national law.
A brief timeline
In January of 2018, the EU published a strategy on creating legislation that dealt with the matter of SUPs, after recognizing the temporary usefulness of such items, the impact large amounts of SUPs have on the environment globally and declaring that the EU aims to become a forerunner in the global fight against marine litter and plastic pollution. This strategy outlined the need for a uniform legislative measure to be put into place to reduce the volume and impact of certain plastic products on the environment.
In June of 2019, the Directive (EU) 2019/904 on single-use plastics was adopted with the aim to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, in particular the aquatic environment, and on human health, as well as to promote the transition to a circular economy with innovative and sustainable business models, products and materials (the Directive). By July 3 of 2021, all EU member states must have taken all necessary measures to successfully transpose the Directive into their national law.
The aims of the Directive
Around 80% of all marine litter is plastic, which inevitably ends in the ocean and beaches. These plastics are extremely harmful to marine life and biodiversity, and consequently to humans, since we often consume some of the species affected by SUPs.
Therefore, this Directive aims to limit the use of SUPs by banning the use of certain SUPs, which can be easily and affordably replaced by alternatives that already exist in the market. The Directive namely calls for the ban of: cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, balloon sticks, as well as some products made of expanded polystyrene (cups, food, and beverage containers), and all products made of oxo-degradable plastic.
Additionally, the Directive provides measures for other SUPs (the use of which is not banned), such as: fishing gear, single-use plastic bags, bottles, beverage and food containers for immediate consumption, packets and wrappers, tobacco filters, sanitary items, and wet wipes. Such measures include limiting their use, reducing consumption, and preventing littering through specific labelling requirements, creating extended producer responsibility schemes (known as the “Polluter Pays Principle”), awareness campaigns and product design requirements.
Cyprus and the Directive on SUPs
By July 3, 2021, all EU Member States were supposed to have already implemented the Directive into national law. However, Cyprus has not yet implemented the Directive.
Despite the fact that it is labelled as important, a discussion concerning such a bill and implementation could take up to 4-5 weeks.
The other side of the coin
It is well known that many activists and ecologists support the Directive and what it stands for, however, the other side of the coin’s voice, namely businesses benefitting from the use of SUP products, cannot be ignored either. While many businesses managed to take action beforehand and prepare for a smoother transition of a market without SUPs, many others were unable to comply due to the pandemic’s sudden emergence.
A prominent example is that of an ice-cream factory, where out of the millions of plastic cups stored that are used to serve ice-cream, only 300.000 were used during the summer of 2020, because of the fall in tourism business caused by COVID-19. The effect of the Directive being implemented into national law would mean that the factory would no longer be able to use the large number of SUPs left in its possession.
The question being posed by these businesses is the following: ‘Wouldn’t it be better to just let them use the quantities of SUPs left in their possession, rather than throwing them away?’ The cost on the environment seems to be the same, according to them, but the economic cost falling on their shoulders would just be an additional burden on an already severely affected industry caused by COVID-19.
What’s next for Cyprus?
Directives, while legally binding in nature, are left upon the Member States to implement into national law to achieve their targeted goals. This is why the Cypriot legislative body, the House of Representatives, was expected to comply by passing a national law adapting the directive’s goals as its own by July 3 of 2021.
By not complying with the specific deadline set by the EU, the Republic of Cyprus has failed ‘to fulfil its obligation to notify measures transposing a directive adopted under a legislative procedure’ to the European Commission, which will then render it liable to pay a lump sum or penalty payment which will be decided by the European Court of Justice, if the Commission chooses to bring the case before it.
As of July 7, 2021, the House of Representatives has failed to pass into Cypriot law the Directive on SUPs requirements, and thus failing to meet the directive’s set deadlines. If the House of Representatives continues to delay the transposition of the Directive into national law, then the Republic of Cyprus as a whole can be held liable under EU Law to fines. It is, however, expected that Cyprus will receive warnings from the Commission before having the case brought before the ECJ.Back to News