Single-Use Plastics Directive


The European Commission launched the Single-Use Plastics Directive in 2018. The directive, which originates from the Commission’s Plastic Strategy, focuses on reducing marine litter. Certain nonwovens products, namely feminine hygiene products and wet wipes, have been included under the Single-Use Plastics Directive. EDANA and the nonwovens industry as a whole are collaborating as much as possible with the European Commission to achieve their sustainability goals and to ensure a harmonised interpretation of the measures.

The Single-Use Plastics Directive concretises the ambitions on the reduction of marine litter. Based on a list of the 10 most common plastic objects found on beaches (which together constitute 70% of all marine litter items), and fishing gear containing plastic, the Commission has written a proposal with a range of policy measures; from bans and reduction targets, to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes, whereby producers contribute to clean up costs and consumer awareness campaigns.


Measures include :

  • A ban on selected single-use products made of plastic for which alternatives exist on the market: cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for balloons, as well as cups, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene and on all products made of oxo-degradable plastic.
  • Measures to reduce consumption of food containers and beverage cups made of plastic and specific marking and labelling of certain products.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility schemes covering the cost to clean-up litter, 
  • A 90% separate collection target for plastic bottles by 2029 (77% by 2025) and the introduction of design requirements to connect caps to bottles, as well as target to incorporate 25% of recycled plastic in PET bottles as from 2025 and 30% in all plastic bottles as from 2030.”

What does the Single-Use Plastics Directive mean for the nonwovens industry?

Certain nonwovens products fall under the scope of the Single-Use Plastics Directive. EDANA is committed to working with the European Commission towards their sustainability goals and the reduction of marine litter. Clear labelling and awareness raising to show the consumer how to properly dispose of single-use products is paramount in this collaboration. 

The products in scope are: 

  • Feminine hygiene products which are defined as sanitary towels (pads) and tampons and tampon applicators
  • Wet wipes which are defined as pre-wetted personal care and domestic wipes. Industrial wet wipes are excluded.

EDANA and the industry are working with the Commission to ensure a EU harmonised interpretation of the following requirements:

Marking requirements for the feminine hygiene products and wet wipes

On their packaging or on the product itself should according to a defined format appear:

  1. The appropriate waste management options for the product or waste disposal means to be avoided for that product in line with the waste hierarchy
  2. The presence of plastics in the product and the resulting negative environmental impacts of littering or other inappropriate waste disposal of the products.


EPR (Extended Producers responsibility) for the wet wipes

Costs to be covered:

  1. the costs of the awareness raising measures referred to in Article 10 regarding those products;
  2. the costs to clean up litter of those products and its subsequent transport and treatment.
  3. the costs of data gathering and reporting in accordance with Article 8a(1)(c) of Directive 2008/98/EC.”


Member States will have to translate this into :

Awareness raising measures for the feminine hygiene products and wet wipes

Aim: “measures to inform consumers and to incentive responsible consumer behaviour, in order to achieve a reduction in the littering of products”

Inform consumers about:

  1. the availability of reusable alternatives, re-use systems and waste management options, as well as best practices in sound waste management;
  2. the impact of littering and other inappropriate waste disposal on the environment, and in particular on the marine environment;
  3. the impact on the sewer network of inappropriate waste disposal.

Technical note non chemically modified cellulose fibres

April 2020: Technical note non chemically modified cellulose fibres

The proposed Directive on the Reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment proposes the following definition of plastic: “'plastic' means a material consisting of a polymer within the meaning of Article 3(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006, to which additives or other substances may have been added, and which can function as a main structural component of final products, with the exception of natural polymers that have not been chemically modified.”  Article 3(40) of Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the council of 18 December 2006 states: “Not chemically modified substance: means a substance whose chemical structure remains unchanged, even if it has undergone a chemical process or treatment, or a physical mineralogical transformation, for instance to remove impurities”. 

Regenerated cellulose fibres have the same molecular structure as cellulose and are not chemically modified
All plants contain cellulose as a major structural polymer. Especially in wood, cellulose is the main constituent together with lignin. Cellulose fibres can also be produced by an industrial process, by extraction of the cellulose from plant material, dissolution and regeneration. The most important raw material used is wood, therefore these fibre types are also summarized as wood-based fibres.  They are termed viscose, modal, and lyocell according the generic fibre names by BISFA (BISFA, 2018). The cellulose in natural fibres (cotton and bast fibres) and regenerated cellulose fibres (viscose, lyocell…) is the same natural polymer and completely identical. The production process starts from the renewable raw material wood. In the first step, pulp is produced in a process very similar to paper pulp making. Following, this pulp is dissolved either by a non-isolated intermediate (viscose) or by direct physical dissolution (lyocell). Viscose and lyocell fibres are pure cellulose without any chemical modification. Viscose and lyocell have the same molecular structure as the natural cellulose. It is known that cellulose in both natural and regenerated cellulose fibres is biodegradable by the same enzyme systems of microorganisms (Bechtold and Schimper, 2010).


For more information on biodegradability of regenerated cellulose / viscose

Nonwoven industry’s response to the Eunomia study on the plastics definition under the Directive (EU) on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment

EDANA fully supports EU’s Plastic Strategy aiming to reduce the plastic waste and increase the recycling rate of plastics. In particular, EDANA welcomes the Directive (EU) on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (hereinafter referred as SUP Directive) and supports the efforts for its successful implementation at national level.

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Initiatives undertaken by the nonwovens industry

The nonwovens industry has launched many initiatives to support the EU’s plastics strategy, including:

  • A voluntary agreement on code of practice on labelling regarding flushable wipes has been in place since 2009 with the most recent update done in 2017.
  • Pledge for the uptake of R-PET in the nonwovens industry:
    R-PET utilisation in nonwovens is expected to increase from 2017 to 2025: +4% in staple fibres +3% in resin. EDANA pledged in 2018 on behalf of the nonwovens manufacturers among its members, representing over 85 % of the nonwovens production in the EU, an uptake of more than 300,000 tonnes of R-PET by 2025, providing that the post-consumer waste volumes necessary to back such a growth are available.

Common Industry Association Position Paper on the EU ‘Plastics Levy’

The plastic tax proposed under the EU’s seven-year budget as a new revenue source is not fit for purpose, and should either be withdrawn or revised, according to a position paper published today and signed by 59 organizations active in the packaging sector. Such a levy would apply an 80 cent levy on each kilogram of non-recycled plastic packaging, which the Commission calculates would generate €6.6 billion a year. The companies said that a plastic levy could “significantly add to the financial commitments needed to adapt to the recent wave of legislation.” Companies are, for example, expecting increases in Extended Producer Responsibility fees under these new rules. The companies also said that the levy will not stimulate Europe’s transition toward a circular economy because the revenue will feed directly into the EU budget, instead of being used to address problems associated with packaging waste.