Single-Use Plastics (SUP)

The EU Directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (so called SUP Directive) aims to prevent and reduce the impact of plastic waste especially in marine environments, to promote a circular economy, and to harmonise the product regulation in the EU single market.

Certain single-use plastic (SUP) products are prohibited and must not be sold when the stocks run out. Some single-use plastics are subject to marking requirements and other responsibilities. Certain product groups may be subject to several requirements.

Tukes monitors the ban of certain plastic products, marking requirements, and the requirement that caps and lids stay attached to the single-use plastic beverage containers during the products’ intended use stage. This obligation of tethered caps starts from 3 July 2024.

Product Bans

The placing on the market of the following products made wholly or partly of plastic is prohibited in Finland from 23 August 2021:

  • all products containing oxo-degradable plastic;
  • following single-use plastic products
    • cutlery
    • plates
    • cotton bud sticks
    • straws
    • beverage stirrers
    • sticks to be attached to and to support balloons
    • food containers made of expanded polystyrene, i.e., receptacles such as boxes, with or without a cover, used to contain food which:
      • is intended for immediate consumption,
      • is typically consumed from the receptacle, and
      • is ready to be consumed without any further preparation.
    • beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, including their caps and lids;
    • cups for beverages made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids.

If plastic straws and cotton bud sticks are used for medical purposes, they may, under certain specific conditions, be placed on the market as medical devices. More information about legislation on medical devices is available on the website of the Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea.

Marking Requirements

From 23 August 2021, certain products made wholly or partly of plastic which are placed on the market, must carry a visible, clearly legible, and indelible marking affixed to the packaging or product itself. The specific requirements are laid down in the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/2151. The product groups are:

  • sanitary towels (pads), tampons, and tampon applicators;
  • wet wipes, i.e. pre-wetted personal care and domestic wipes;
  • tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products;
  • beverage cups.

The marking must be placed on the sales and grouped packaging of sanitary towels (pads), tampons and their applicators, and wet wipes. In tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products, these must bear the marking on the unit packet and outside packaging. Marking is not obligatory for packaging with a surface area of less than 10 cm2.

Beverage cups must bear either a printed, engraved, or embossed marking on the cup.

Sales packaging is the packaging (sales units) in which a product is sold to consumers. Grouped packaging is intended for storing a group of sales units at the point of purchase. For example, a sales unit is a packaging in which ten individual sanitary towels or wet wipes have been packaged. A cardboard packaging in which the sales units of sanitary towels or wet wipes are stored at the point of purchase is a grouped packaging.

Regarding tobacco products with filters, the Tobacco Act (549/2016) is referred to, where:

  • a unit packet means the smallest individual packaging of a tobacco product, or any other product referred to in this Act that is placed on the market (section 2, subsection 31), for example, a cigarette pack made of paperboard;
  • outside packaging means any packaging in which tobacco products or other products referred to in this Act are placed on the market and which includes a unit packet or an aggregation of unit packets, for example, a carton of cigarettes. However, the transparent wrappers of unit packets are not regarded as outside packaging (Tobacco Act section 2, subsection 32).

Tukes monitors the markings required for tobacco products in SUP legislation. In Finland, the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health Valvira and municipalities monitor compliance with the Tobacco Act’s provisions on the unit packets of tobacco products.

Who is Responsible for Affixing the Markings?

In Finland, the manufacturer, the party placing a product on the market, or the distributor is responsible for affixing markings. For further information, see “Frequently Asked Questions”.

What Should the Marking be Like?

Each product group has its own marking. As an example, the pictograms of markings for beverage cups are shown. A coloured marking must be printed on cups of beverages that are partly made from plastic. The marking must be printed, engraved, or embossed on beverage cups made wholly from plastic.

Printed marking plastic in product.

Printed marking plastic in product.

Printed marking made of plastic.

Printed marking made of plastic.

Engraved or embossed marking made of plastic.

Engraved or embossed marking made of plastic.

The marking consists of an image and an information text below the image indicating that there is plastic in the product or that the product is made from plastic. In Finland, the information text must be in Finnish and Swedish.

More detailed marking requirements are laid down in the Implementing Regulation. Requirements that concern, among others, the position, size, design of the marking as well as the font type and size must be addressed in the marking. The requirements for each product group may be checked from the Implementing Regulation.

Product Requirement of Caps and Lids Remaining Attached to Beverage Containers Starting from 3 July 2024

The SUP Directive has a product requirement for the caps and lids to remain attached to the beverage containers during the products’ intended use stage. In Finland, the requirement has been implemented by amendment of the packaging and packaging waste regulation. The requirement is effective from 3 July 2024.

The requirement is applied to single-use plastic or plastic-containing beverage containers of up to three litres with a cap or lid made from plastic. For further information, see “Frequently Asked Questions”.

A harmonized standard of the requirements and test methods to demonstrate the attachment of caps and lids to a beverage container has been given:

SFS-EN 17665:2022 + A1:2023:en Packaging. Test methods and requirements to demonstrate that plastic caps and lids remain attached to beverage containers

The product requirement does not apply to:

  • beverage containers made of metal or glass with a plastic cap or lid,
  • metal caps or lids with a plastic seal,
  • beverage containers intended and used for foods for special medical purposes, as defined in point (g) of Article 2 of Regulation (EU) No 609/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council that is in liquid form.

Additional information of foods for special medical purposes is available in the website of the Finnish Food Authority.

The Definition of Plastic

In SUP legislation, plastic means a material consisting of a polymer, as defined in the REACH regulation, to which additives or other substances may have been added, and which can function as a main structural component of final products. Natural polymers that are the result of a polymerisation process that has taken place in nature, and which have not been chemically modified, do not fall within the scope of the SUP Directive.

The SUP legislation is applied to plastics made of modified natural polymers. It also applies to plastics made of bio-based, fossil, or synthetic starting substances. The legislation also covers biodegradable plastics and polymer-based rubber items. However, paints, inks, and adhesives as polymeric materials are not considered to fall under the definition of plastic and are excluded from the scope of SUP legislation.

In general, polymers resulting from industrial processes are defined as modified polymers even if they occured in nature. This means that polymers resulting from biosynthesis through cultivation and fermentation processes in industrial settings, e.g. polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) and polylactides (PLA), are considered modified natural polymers.

Polymers which are the result of a polymerisation process occurring in nature and that have been extracted from nature for further processing are considered natural polymers. For example, cellulose and lignin extracted from wood and cereals directly meet the definition of a natural polymer. A chemical comparison between starting substances and end products is used as a criterion. Therefore, viscose regenerated from cellulose is considered a natural polymer and so viscose, lyocell, and cellulosic film are not within the scope of application of the directive. However, cellulose acetate is chemically modified and a plastic due to the chemical modifications taking place during the production process that remain present in the end product.

Concepts related to the definition of plastic are clarified in the Commission guidelines (SUP guidelines) issued in June 2021.

Definition of a Single-Use Plastic Product

An SUP product is a product that is made wholly or partly from plastic and that is not conceived, designed, or placed on the market to accomplish, within its life span, multiple trips, or rotations by being returned to a producer for refill or re-used for the same purpose for which it was conceived.

The disposability of a product can be assessed by examining the product’s expected service life and consumers’ experience in the product’s reusability.

The assessment covers the following:

  • Is the product intended and designed to be used several times without risk to the integrity of the product?
  • Do consumers consider the product to be reusable? 
  • Do consumers use the product similarly to a reusable product? 

The assessment of disposability is also affected by the product material, its washability and reparability, and whether the product properties enable the multiple use of the product for a single purpose. 

For example, the EU Commission’s unofficial interpretations on the SUP legislation includes interpretations on plastic cutlery made in accordance with EN 12875-1-2005 (Mechanical dishwashing resistance of utensils). As they can be washed 25 times in a dishwasher, they can be considered to have been designed for multiple uses without losing their functionality and properties. Typically, consumers also regard this type of cutlery as reusable products.

If an SUP product is a packaging, instructions for assessing its disposability are provided in legislation on packaging and packaging waste (1029/2021). If an SUP product is within the scope of both the SUP legislation and legislation on packaging and packaging waste, the product must comply with requirements laid down in both legislations. If these legislations are in conflict, the SUP legislation is applied.

Single-use plastic products that are not considered to be packaging are only subject to the requirements of the SUP Directive, even though they may have similar uses or characteristics to packaging.

Placing on the Market and Making Available on the Market in the SUP Directive

When the SUP Directive is applied, a product is placed on the market when it is made available for the first time on the market in Finland. This is done by the manufacturer or by an importer of the product.

A product is made available on the market when it is supplied for distribution, consumption or use on the Finnish market during a commercial activity, whether in return for payment or free of charge.

If an operator has business operations in another EU Member State, the company must verify the member state’s legislation separately. In the SUP legislation, placing on the market always takes place in the member state in question, unlike in several other laws. For further information, see “Frequently Asked Questions”.

Background of the Legislation

The aim of the Directive (EU) 2019/904 is to prevent and reduce the volume of plastic waste in the environment, particularly in the aquatic environment. Another aim is to promote the transition to a circular economy. The national legislation is based on the Directive.

Plastic accounts for roughly 80 per cent of all beach litter in the EU. The product groups to which the requirements laid down in the legislation are applied have been selected based on an EU study on beach litter. The Ministry of Environment also assigned a study on the composition of Finnish beach litter. The study showed that on Finnish beaches, cigarette butts that are within the scope of the SUP legislation are common.

The goals set in the legislation are being achieved by different measures, such as actions to reduce consumption nationally; by product restrictions, product design and marking requirements; and by extended producer responsibility. The selected measures depend on the product group. Some product groups may have several requirements.

According to the Waste Act (646/2011) Tukes monitors product bans, marking requirements and the requirement of caps and lids remaining attached to beverage containers. Pirkanmaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (PIR-ELY) is the national supervisory authority for extended producer responsibility and is responsible for supervising the requirements related to the extended producer responsibility of the Directive.

Frequently asked questions