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Single Use Plastics Directive Earth Day 2024 Workshop Report

Updated: May 3

Monday 22nd April was Earth Day, which the UN themed around plastic. To mark the day, Coastwatch organised a workshop on Banned Single Use Plastics in the European Commission Representation of Ireland offices in Dublin and online. The below linked short report summarises the event and outcomes.

Hyperlinked names lead to the presenter slides. But first some background:

A selection of single-use consumer plastic items most frequently found on bathing beaches in Europe has been banned since July 2021 under the EU SUP Directive Article 5. The Irish Coastwatch Coordination team decided to track the reduction in marine litter and success of the ban by including the list of banned items with explanatory note as an extra page in the annual citizen scientists autumn shore survey – see or survey form (last page). Introduced in autumn 2020 there was good surveyor update and so included in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Based on these four annual autumn survey marine litter results we could celebrate the rapid reduction of most banned types, but also see with concern that there is some "ban-resistance", especially in disposable cutlery.

Earth Day Summary 2024
Download PDF • 1.96MB

To identify causes of ban resistance, Coastwatchers started checking both online and in some sales outlets and found that disposable plastic cutlery is still widely available. This contrasts with the “best in class” cotton buds where plastic sticks have been fully replaced by rolled paper in sales.

Coffee cups and food containers made from polystyrene, have also been replaced both online and in our shop checks, but some take aways are still using them, especially as burger clam shells. A bewildering range of single use material options are on offer and there doesn’t appear to be a strong move to reusable materials in case of the banned catering associated items as hoped.

We then sought meetings with government officials to share the Coastwatch marine litter citizen science data and explore better implementation and enforcement of the ban resistant items. This clarified that the EPA is tasked to enforce the ban and some challenges. A few months on the Earthday workshop was planned. The EC offices Dublin were kindly made available to us and participation by all relevant officials assured.

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