Plastic is present in many aspects of our daily lives and represents a pivotal element in our economy. On the other hand, the biggest challenges with plastics are the presently low rates of reuse, recovery and recycling when compared with other recyclables, including paper, metals and glass. Most plastic waste streams result in being disposed of in a landfill or incinerated or even worse inadequately disposed of, ending up in our oceans. Plastics in our oceans tend to only breakdown into microplastics, endangering the food chain of underwater organisms and eventually end up in our own food chain.

In 2019, the EU adopted Directive 2019/904, commonly referred to as the ‘Single-Use Plastic Directive’ which aims at reducing the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, by means of enacting a number of effective measures targeting such products. This Directive promotes a circular approach that prioritises sustainable and non-toxic re-usable products and re-use systems rather than single-use products.

In its efforts to pursue such obligations, the Government announced a new measure during the 2020 budget speech, whereby the importation, production, sale and distribution of certain single-use plastic (SUP) products and plastic bags will be prohibited. In this regard, the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment, Climate Change and Planning (MECP), have drafted two Legal Notices that will reflect the following changes:

As from 1 January 2021

      • The placing on the market of single-use plastic products and oxo-degradable plastic shall be prohibited.
      • The products covered by this prohibition will include; cotton bud sticks and straws (except those used for medical purposes), plates, beverage stirrers, sticks to be attached to and to support balloons, food containers made of expanded polystyrene, beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene including their caps and lids and cups for beverages made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids.
      • The importation, intra-Community acquisition, and manufacturing for the circulation on the market in Malta, in the course of a commercial activity, of any lightweight plastic carrier bags with a wall thickness below 50 microns shall be prohibited.

As from 1 January 2022

      • Any supply of lightweight plastic carrier bags with a wall thickness below 50 microns intended for distribution, consumption or use on the market in Malta, in the course of a commercial activity, whether in return for payment or free of charge shall be prohibited.
      • Reusable plastic carrier bags, biodegradable and compostable plastic carrier bags as well as very lightweight plastic carrier bags (below 15 microns) used for hygiene purposes and primary packaging for loose food, are exempt from the above-mentioned prohibitions.

As from 3 July 2024

      • The placing on the market of beverage containers with a capacity of up to three (3) litres (i.e. receptacles used to contain liquid, such as beverage bottles including their caps and lids, and composite beverage packaging including their caps and lids, etc.) shall be prohibited, if their caps and lids do not remain attached to the containers during the products’ intended use stage.
      • Such products may be exempted if they are made from glass or metal or intended and used for special medical purposes.

ERA is working hand in hand with other competent Authorities to ensure that adaquate protection is given to our environment. Cooperation and education are key to ensure a better, sustainable environment for present and future generations, but this cannot happen without small behavioral changes that we all need to make in the path towards a healthier and richer environment in our own lifetime which will translate into a collective wellbeing enjoyed by everyone.

For further information you may wish to contact ERA via the customer care service.

18 December 2020