The Single-Use Plastics Directive and your foodservice business

About this article

Your practical guide to the EU’s Single-Use Plastics Directive. Learn what food packaging and cutlery are banned, what’s restricted, and what alternatives are available that comply with the continued roll-out of the Directive.

calender 05 Jan 2024
clock 5 min
user Francisco Morcillo

Plastic has many useful properties and applications but, like any material used in packaging or tableware, there are dangers associated with plastic waste when it’s not properly disposed of and ends up littered in the environment. To address the problem of plastic waste, the EU has approved several measures that impact some of the products you need to run your catering and hospitality businesses.

Below we compiled a list of the products affected and what you can do to comply with the regulations. Please note that we regularly update this page, so bookmark this article and check back regularly for compliance advice and SUP-compliant products.

What packaging and tableware items have been banned since July 2021?

The SUP Directive came into effect in July 2021 and banned the following products:

  • Plastic straws: The ban includes straws made from all plastics, including bioplastics like PLA. Plastic straws are only permitted in hospitals and only for patients unable to independently consume food or drink without one. 

    • Replace with: Paper or reusable straws

  • Plastic plates: All plastic plates are affected by the ban, including paper or cardboard plates with linings made of plastics like PE and PLA. 

  • Plastic cutlery: The ban affects all single-use cutlery made of plastic, including bioplastics like PLA. 

    • Replace with: Bamboo, wood, paper, and reusable alternatives. 

  • Plastic beverage stirrers: The ban applies to all single-use stirrers made of plastic, including bioplastics like PLA. 

    • Replace with: Wood, paper, bamboo, and reusable alternatives, such as metal spoons. 

  • Expanded polystyrene (EPS) food and drink containers: The ban only applies to EPS takeaway boxes and cups (with or without lids). Polystyrene (PS) and extruded polystyrene (XPS) products are excluded from this category, as well as EPS fish trays and meat boxes. 

    • Replace with: Food containers and cups made from more widely recyclable plastics (e.g., rPET) or renewable materials (e.g., paper, bagasse, bamboo, and palm leaf). 

  • Oxo-degradable products: When products made from oxo-degradable plastics break down, they can result in microplastics. 

    • Replace with: Conventional plastics and renewable alternatives. 

What’s restricted by the SUP Directive?

As of July 2022, new labelling guidelines came into full effect for disposable cups, their covers, lids, and other plastic-containing products. Now, all cups sold in the EU, even those with an aqueous lining, must carry the ‘Plastic in Product’ or ‘Made of Plastic’ turtle logo  To inform users that they contain plastics.

Turtle logo (EN)

What’s next when it comes to the EU’s plastics ban

At a local level, each EU member state must take action to reduce the use of single-use cups and takeaway containers. Individual member states should perhaps consider deposit-return schemes, charging for single-use plastic items, market restrictions, like banning the on-site use of disposables, and adopting and promoting reusable alternatives.

The EU defines reusable packaging as a product that is purposely designed, manufactured, and put on the market in such a way that arrangements are in play to make reuse operational (EN 13449:2004).

From 2023 onwards, countries must implement reduction targets for the consumption of single-use plastic cups, takeaway containers, and foodservice packaging. Looking for more country-specific information on implementation? Check out our articles featuring more detailed measures for The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium.  

From July 2024, new rules come in for plastic bottles and beverage containers (e.g., for beer, juices, milk, and so on). Those up to three liters will be allowed on the market if the caps and lids are attached to the containers. Furthermore, the percentage of recycled content in rPET bottles needs to reach a specific level, and the collection rates for these bottles must increase. Watch this space for more details. 

Are there other items affected by the SUP Directive? 

Above we’ve tried to highlight the items most likely to affect your foodservice business, but it’s important to remember that the Directive’s restrictions, bans, and labelling specifications extend beyond those items and affect other products and industries. These include:

  • Plastic-stemmed cotton buds: Banned in the EU since July 2021.

  • Plastic balloon sticks: Banned in the EU since July 2021.

  • Menstrual products: Labelled with a ‘Plastic in Product’ turtle logo since July 2022.

  • Wet wipes: Labelled with a ‘Plastic in Product’ turtle logo since July 2022.

  • Tobacco products: Labelled with a ‘Plastic in Product’ turtle logo since July 2022.

Do you want more advice on the SUP Directive rollout and its consequences for your business? Contact us

Was this article useful?
Francisco Morcillo

Translating complex sustainability problems into workable actions

More Inspiration