Single-use plastics sales ban: your questions, answered

Government announced that as of this year, the sale of certain single-use plastic products will be prohibited. In fact, Malta is among the first countries to do so. This was mentioned time and time again, and was included in the latest budget speech.

But what does this actually mean, for businesses and consumers?

1. What is going to change as regards the single-use plastic items which were banned from importation in 2021?

The Single-Use Plastic products listed in Part A of the Schedule and products made from oxo-degradable plastic shall be prohibited from being distributed, consumed or used in the course of a commercial activity, within two months from the regulations’ publication.

Part A of the Schedule to S.L. 549.140, includes:

(a) Cotton bud sticks, except if they fall within the scope of Council Directive 90/385/EEC or Council Directive 93/42/EEC;

(b) Cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks);

(c) Plates;

(d) Straws, except if they fall within the scope of Directive 90/385/EEC or Directive 93/42/EEC;

(e) Beverage stirrers;

(f) Sticks to be attached to and to support balloons, except balloons for industrial or other professional uses and applications that are not distributed to consumers, including the mechanisms of such sticks;

(g) Food containers made of expanded polystyrene (jablo), i.e. receptacles such as boxes, with or without a cover, used to contain food which:

– is intended for immediate consumption, either on-the spot or take-away,

– is typically consumed from the receptacle, and

– is ready to be consumed without any further preparation, such as cooking, boiling or heating,

including food containers used for fast food or other meal ready for immediate consumption, except beverage containers, plates and packets and wrappers containing food;

(h) Beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, including their caps and lids;

(i) Cups for beverages made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids.

Therefore, persons engaged in commercial activities must not distribute, consume or use any of the mentioned items, whether at a charge or for free; and therefore, any residual stock must be appropriately consumed or sold before the onset of the prohibition.

2. How does ERA intend to enforce this Regulation?

(i) Through continuous communication between the enforcement directorate, the technical team on waste management within the Authority;

(ii) Inspections of the market;

(iii) Through addressing public reports of sightings of such products banned through this regulation.

(iv) Through further cooperation with Customs Department and checks on importation. 

3. Are biodegradable plastic plates and cutlery going to be banned?

Yes. All plastic plates and cutlery shall be banned, even if they are biodegradable or compostable plastic.

Furthermore, even single-use paper or cardboard-based plates with a plastic coating or lining shall be prohibited.

4. Are plastic cups going to be banned?

Only plastic cups made from expanded polystyrene (jablo) or containing oxo-degradable plastic shall be banned.

5. Are plastic food containers going to be banned?

The prohibition includes only food containers made of expanded polystyrene (jablo), including receptacles such as boxes, with or without a cover used to contain food which fulfil all the below three criteria:

(i) is intended for immediate consumption, either on-the-spot or take-away,

(ii) is typically consumed from the receptacle, and

(iii) is ready to be consumed without any further preparation, such as cooking, boiling or heating;

This also Includes food containers used for fast food or other meal ready for immediate consumption; 

6. Will packaging made of jablo (provided at the point of sale) of food requiring further preparation be banned?

No. Only the following food containers will be banned:

Food containers made of expanded polystyrene, i.e. receptacles such as boxes, with or without a cover, used to contain food which:

(i) is intended for immediate consumption, either on-the spot or take-away,

(ii) is typically consumed from the receptacle, and

(iii) is ready to be consumed without any further preparation, such as cooking, boiling or heating,

Therefore food that still requires further preparation may still be sold in jablo containers at the point of sale.

7. Can I keep using the plastic straws I have at home?

Yes, you can make use of any remaining straws you might have at home, however you should not find any more plastic straws for sale from the onset of the prohibition. 

Having said this, persons engaged in commercial activities must not distribute, consume or use any of the mentioned items in Part A of the Schedule, whether at a cost or for free.

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