A proposal approved by the European Parliament will ban a number of single-use plastic items, coming into effect in 2021.
There is little denial at this point that our oceans are filled with plastic of various sizes, from entire plastic bottles down to microplastics almost invisible to the naked eye. This has filtered through the entire food chain, to the extent that much of our own bodily waste contains traces of it.
To help curb the problem, the EU has announced that under draft plans overwhelmingly approved by the European Parliament – by 571 votes to 53, with 34 abstentions – a range of single-use plastic items will be banned from being sold, starting in 2021.
These include plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks and cotton buds, which are believed to make up 70pc of marine litter. The ban will encompass all products made from oxo-degradable plastic, such as bags, packaging and fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene.
The clampdown will be extended further in the following years, and several other items – for which no alternatives exist – must be reduced by at least 25pc by 2025. These include single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes and food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams.
‘It is up to us now to stay the course’
Also by this date, member states will be required to see that 90pc of other plastics – such as drink bottles – are collected separately and recycled. MEPs also agreed with plans to curb the spread of cigarette butts and other waste generated by tobacco products.
These, the proposal said, would require plastic waste from these products to be reduced by 50pc by 2025 and 80pc by 2030.
Fishing gear was also targeted, with countries expected to ensure that half of lost collected gear is collected, of which 15pc should be recycled by 2025.
“We have adopted the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics. It is up to us now to stay the course in the upcoming negotiations with the council, due to start as early as November,” said Frédérique Ries, the MEP who proposed the bill.
“Today’s vote paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive. It is essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe, estimated at €22bn by 2030.”