The European Parliament has just earned themselves some serious street cred as they voted for a ban on single-use plastics in a bid to stop pollution entering the world’s oceans. Products that have now been outlawed are plastic plates, cutlery, straws and cotton buds, which will all be eradicated by the start of 2021.
The ban aims to be geared toward items for which valid alternatives are available, estimated to make up more than 70% of marine litter. EU lawmakers are setting out plans to make companies more accountable for their plastic waste. Member states will now discuss the associated regulations before they are approved, undoubtedly some states will push back.
The plans for the plastic ban were initially put on the table back in May after a wave of public opposition to single-use plastic swept across Europe. From the as far reaching as the Arctic Sea, to salt on your dinner table, Fragments of plastic have been found.
Creatures as small as plankton and as large as whales have been documented to have plastic in some point along their digestive tract, which ultimately end up in humans via the food chain. The impact of plastic on the environment and human health is still not fully understood. Environmentalists have called for urgent measures from industry and governments to curb the flow of plastic.
“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 Belgian liberal Frederique Ries, who was responsible for the bill.
Another radical development states that under the new rules, member states would have to ensure that tobacco companies cover the cost of cigarette butt collection and processing in a bid to reduce the number entering the environment by 80%.
Similar requirements would apply to fishing gear producers, who would need to collect at least 50 per cent of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic per year. Fishing gear floating at sea accounts for over 30% of artificial waste found on Europe’s beaches, while “ghost fishing” kill countless whales, seals and birds every year.
Furthermore, states will be expected to recycle 90% of plastic bottles by 2025, and producers would have to assist in bearing the costs of waste management. Companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestle have been heavily criticised by environmental groups as they are responsible for a large proportion of plastic waste and not doing enough to curb it.
The parliament backed the range of proposals with a 571-53 majority. “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 (£19bn) by 2030.” said Ms Ries.