Single Use Plastic Packaging in Europe - Market Magnitude in the Convenience & Retail Channels and the Regulatory Context


Single Use Plastic Packaging in Europe - Market Magnitude in the Convenience & Retail Channels and the Regulatory Context

Published: September 2019

June 2019 saw the release of the European Commission’s Single-Use Plastics Directive that has rallied support from national governments and the general public but caused uncertainty within the plastics industry. The new legislation will affect demand for plastics in certain market segments thereafter. AMI is launching a first of its kind report that will assist the plastics industry in navigating the regulatory environment, identifying the affected markets and quantifying the scale of potential demand changes.

The term ‘single-use plastic packaging’ has not been formally defined by the industry, and hence its market magnitude has not been duly assessed until now. AMI has determined single-use plastic packaging to incorporate the packaging products and food/drink delivery formats targeted by the European Commission’s Single-Use Plastics Directive and structured the analysis to correspond to traditionally defined packaging industry terms.


Consumer drive for convenience has resulted in the proliferation of single-use plastics (SUP), which negatively affect our natural environment. The industry is now in need of action to scrutinise its role in a circular economy. During 2018 the European Commission published a proposal for the Single Use Plastic Directive that has rallied support from both national governments and the general public. This proposal was accepted and released in June 2019 and will affect demand for plastics in certain market segments.

The need for this report is highlighted by the fragmented legislative landscape as individual European nations are enforcing their own mitigation measures and plastic strategies leaving brand owners, polymer suppliers and converters in a state of flux. The shape of the industry has already begun to change as resin suppliers integrate with recycling companies and look into renewable material options, while brand owners and packaging producers will need to develop solutions to meet requirements and avoid financial penalties.

The key objective of our new authoritative sustainability-oriented report is to help the plastic industry navigate through the convoluted regulatory environment with close attention paid to:

  • The EU Directive on reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (SUP Directive, 2019)
  • The European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy (2018)
  • The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (2015, amended 2018)
  • EC Regulations on Recycled Plastic Materials and Articles intended to come into contact with food
The national policies that have been transposed from EU Directives
The report: 
  • Navigates through the present policy frameworks and discusses the impact each will have on the consumption of single-use plastic in the European market.
  • Provides market magnitude perspective to illustrate practical implications of changes in policy frameworks.
  • Identifies and quantifies applications subject to policy framework changes: plastic disposables, plastic retail packaging (rigid and flexible) and other single-use items as defined by the EU SUP Directive proposal.
  • Analyses penetration of convenience versus take-home packaging formats (single-portion format vs. multi-portion format; food service disposables, convenience retail packaging).
  • Discusses the current schools of thought on end-of-life solutions, identifying opportunities for recyclate and bio-resins. 
  • Provides context on sustainability drivers and how they shape innovations in the value chain including structural and format changes.
The report provides answers the following questions:
  • What is the current regulatory framework around sustainability and how to interpret it? 
  • How will new regulations impact the value chain (imports vs. local production)?
  • Which response strategies to adopt to proactively manage market changes?
  • What is the market magnitude of single-use plastic packaging and how it can be segmented?
  • What is the material mix in the single-use packaging context?
  • Which packaging formats (single-portion vs. multi-portion) will drive the demand?
  • What end-of-life options are best suited to applications relevant in convenience and retail packaging?
  • What are new product development initiatives in the segment and what drives them?


Single-use plastic packaging in the context of this study refers the packaging products and food/drink delivery formats that are widely used at the consumer level. The wider scope of this study encompasses plastic retail packaging in both flexible and rigid packaging formats which in some cases overlap with the EC’s segmentation. In this instance, the application will be absorbed into the wider segment and will be further sub-segmented. The polymers covered will be determined by the application.

Application and format scope

For the purpose of this study, the market will be segmented into these major applications:

  • Plastic disposables:
    • Food containers
    • Cups and lids
    • Utensils
  • Retail packaging
    • Rigid plastic packaging
      • Bottles & Closures
      • Thin wall packaging
  • Flexible plastic packaging
    • Bags, pouches and wrappers
    • Lidding film
    • Labels
  • Other single-use items

Within rigid retail packaging application, AMI Consulting analyses the demand from the angle of packaging size. To this end, a further format segmentation is provided:

  • Single portion (single-use) formats
  • Multi portion (multi-use) formats, encompassing multipacks and family-size formats.

Material scope

 The demand for packaging application above is segmented into the relevant polymers currently used in the packaging industry:

  • PP
  • PE
  • PET
  • PS
  • PVC
  • Bio-resins
  • Other relevant (including recyclate)

The report contextualises other non-polymeric materials impacting the demand for plastics. The report provides detailed analysis of opportunities where recyclate and bio-resins will gain traction in the future. 

Reporting basis

The report provides data in tonnes on the following years:

  • Past: 2013
  • Present: 2018, 2019e
  • Future: 2023

Geographic scope

Production volume analysis in the report will be focussed on the EU28+3 market, with the following individual markets quantified:

  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • UK
  • Spain
  • Poland
  • OWE
  • OCE

International trade will be contextualised.


·         France

·         Germany

·         Italy

·         UK

·         Spain

Further information:

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