Environment

EU Parliament votes in favor of landmark ban on single-use plastics

Single-use plastics would be banned in the EU from 2021 under a plan voted on by the European Parliament
Single-use plastics would be banned in the EU from 2021 under a plan voted on by the European Parliament
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Single-use plastics would be banned in the EU from 2021 under a plan voted on by the European Parliament
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Single-use plastics would be banned in the EU from 2021 under a plan voted on by the European Parliament

Plastic pollution is already a huge problem demanding huge solutions, and the European Parliament has just announced plans to make some of the biggest steps ever taken to stem the tide. Members of the European Parliament have this week voted in favor of a plan that would see items like single-use cutlery and straws banned from 2021 onwards.

The proposed ban is part of the EU's wider Plastics Strategy announced back in January and further detailed in May, which aims to work toward a total elimination of single-use plastics. The European Commission says more than 80 percent of marine litter is plastics, and the fear is if we don't change our ways, by 2050 there will be more of it in the ocean than fish.

The ban would apply to the entire EU market and cover disposable cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers, along with oxo-plastics, such as bags or packaging, and particular polystyrenes, such as those used in fast-food containers.

Ninety percent of plastic bottles would need to be recycled by 2025, while cigarette filters containing plastic will need to be reduced by 50 percent by the same year, further reducing by 80 percent by 2030. Member states, meanwhile, would need to collect at least 50 percent of lost and abandoned plastic fishing gear each year, and work toward recycling at least 15 percent of it by 2025.

More of an onus would also be placed on companies selling plastic items, with tobacco companies to be made to cover the cost of waste collection of their products, and the same goes for purveyors of fishing gear containing plastic.

Negotiations to make the plan binding legislation will now begin between the Parliament, the EU Commission and the member states.

"We have adopted the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics," says EU rapporteur Frédérique Ries. "It is up to us now to stay the course in the upcoming negotiations with the Council, due to start as early as November. 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 22 billion euros by 2030."

Source: EU

5 comments
Aross
Although a good start I feel it does not go far enough. We should totally eliminate the use of plastics in everything associated with food and consumables. Not only do plastics cause an Eco disaster but I believe we will find that they are a major contributor to human health issues like cancer and auto immune diseases. And if not I think it is still better to err on the side of caution.
Doodah
I totally agree with Aross. I'm hoping that the US sees something similar and soon. It's the only way to see progress on this quickly. HOpefully with the cleanup initiatives currently underway and getting it out of the economic cycle, our oceans will be relatively plastic free in not too long a time. We have a long way to go here, as I still see people get bottled water regularly with little guilt or awareness about the biological effects. single use plastic must be past tense as soon as possible.
TechGazer
If the government mandated standard containers, reusable glass bottles might be economically feasible again. If there's only one specification for 1-litre bottles, for example, it's possible to set up efficient collection of used containers, which can be cleaned and transferred to the nearest user of containers. Glass bottles could be reused many times before being recycled again. Customized containers are for the benefit of the marketers, not the consumers. Consumers would be better off if the producers had to compete based on what's _in_ the containers. Even for plastic containers, standardization would make recycling easier and cheaper. Adding a purple swirl to market a container's product makes the plastic less valuable for recycling. Aluminum cans are highly recylable because of standardization, of size and shape and alloy content. Companies could still customize the labels of standard containers, or print on them with approved (doesn't contaminate recycling) inks or whatever.
aksdad
This might be the straw that breaks the camel's back, so to speak, for other EU countries who have been contemplating exiting this mindless, undemocratic institution. While it may or may not prompt more exits, what will happen for sure is the cost of a lot of things will go up with no tangible societal or environmental benefit. These single-use plastics make up a small fraction of waste. The hue and cry over plastic waste ending up in the ocean is pointless in the developed world because all those countries have strict waste-management laws and disposal streams in place. The oceanic plastic waste is coming from poor countries in Africa and Asia.
ljaques
I'm with aksdad on this. Doing away with single use plastic might be a good thing, but teaching all the rubbish-strewing wastrels of the world to stop throwing them down onto the ground or into the water would be a much better thing to strive for. Teaching them to actually recycle would be a very good thing, don't you think? But enacting a costly action to do away with plastics may, indeed, cause even more Brexits (not that the UK has enforced its people's WILL yet...) Some day soon, politicians may feel the ire of their hubris and complete disdain of the public. So many things have come to a head, it's only a matter of time until one or a hundred festering wounds burst.