Lisbon's ban on single-use plastic cups raises doubts about its effectiveness

May 27, 2024

On May 2, the Lisbon City Council (CML), as a result of its Urban Waste Management, Cleaning and Hygiene Regulation, published on December 31, 2019, reinforced, through the publication of a municipal order, the application and enforcement of the measure banning the sale of single-use plastic cups in Lisbon's drinking establishments and restaurants, with these establishments having until the beginning of July to adapt to this provision.
Lisbon's ban on single-use plastic cups raises doubts about its effectiveness

This prohibition measure, which was successively postponed due to the pandemic context (Covid-19) - and as such, assuming the unequivocal contribution that these plastic cups made as a guarantee of hygiene and food safety and protection of public health - was supported by the initial wording of Law 76/2019, of September 2, which determined the non-use and non-availability of single-use plastic tableware in the activities of the restaurant and/or beverage sector and in the retail trade, the version of which was subsequently amended and republished, with the transposition into national law of the SUP Directive, of June 5, 2019, through DL 78/2021, of September 24, harmonizing national provisions with European provisions, and where the plastic cups in question are not covered by any prohibition measure.

In addition to this legal issue, APIP is concerned about the effectiveness and sustainability of this prohibitive measure, which was approved by the City Council. This concern has also been expressed by other organizations, including the environmental association ZERO - Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável.

As well as being discriminatory (only plastic material is targeted) - environmental legislation should be based on the principle of material neutrality - this measure is not seen as a precursor to true sustainability, which will automatically lead to a transition to other materials / alternative options, whose better environmental, economic and social performance has yet to be proven, a situation that does nothing to benefit the fight against greenwashing practices, quite the opposite in fact.

Rather than banning materials or products, we must ensure that public spaces and current waste management circuits are prepared so that the country can achieve its prevention, reuse, collection and recycling targets, where the adoption of responsible consumer behavior, both in terms of consumption and the application of good waste separation and disposal practices, remain fundamental.

Within the framework of the concerns expressed above, APIP appeals to CML's sense of responsibility to ensure that this restrictive measure is urgently reviewed, in order to ensure harmonization and alignment with the current legal framework.