Putting the brakes on our plastic waste is going to be anything but straightforward. Europe alone generates 25 million tonnes of plastic waste each year and recycles less than 30 percent of it. Eliminating single-use plastics would be a huge step forward, and that's the direction taken by the European Union, which is launching a new strategy whereby only recyclable versions will be in use by 2030.

"If we don't change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050," says first vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans. "We must stop plastics getting into our water, our food, and even our bodies. The only long-term solution is to reduce plastic waste by recycling and reusing more."

The EU's Plastics Strategy aims to cut out non-recyclable plastics by 2030, while cutting down on single-use plastics and restricting microplastics, all by establishing a new circular economy around the material. The strategy lays out a few key steps to achieve this. The first is to introduce new rules on packaging that improve their recyclability and increase the demand for recycled plastics, thereby making recycling profitable for businesses.

Another is to build on legislation already adopted by certain EU countries that outlaws plastic bags, focusing also on other single-use plastics like straws and coffee cup lids. It will also introduce new rules to tackle sea litter, encouraging port authorities to ensure that waste produced on ships is brought back to land and disposed of correctly.

Additionally, €100 million (US$121 million) will be invested in the development of advanced recyclable materials, ideas that make recycling processes more efficient and efforts to remove harmful contaminants in recycled plastics. Beyond that, the EU plans to work with partners around the globe to drive international standards.

Some of these measures, such as the rules for port authorities, are set to be adopted right away while others, such as the crackdown on single-use plastics, will be presented to European parliament later in the year.

"With our plastic strategy we are laying the foundations for a new circular plastics economy, and driving investment towards it," says vice-president of the European Commission, Jyrki Katainen "This will help to reduce plastic litter in land, air and sea while also bringing new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and high quality jobs. This is a great opportunity for European industry to develop global leadership in new technology and materials. Consumers are empowered to make conscious choices in favor of the environment. This is true win-win."