European Parliament to act on single use plastic pollution

In order to reduce marine litter European Parliament has voted to ban a range of single-use plastics across the European Union.

The European Union proposed a ban of single-use plastics earlier in May this year following the demand from public to reduce and fight marine litter. The proposal asked for EU wide rules that would target “10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. Together these constitute 70% of all marine litter items.”

On October 25 Members of the European Parliament backed the ban on plastic cutlery and plates, straws, beverage stirrers, cotton buds, balloon sticks, oxo-degradable plastics and expanded polystyrene food containers and cups. The EU hopes that this ban will go into effect across the union by 2021.

The plastic items that are not on the list to be banned will have to be reduced by member states by at least 25% by 2025. These items include food containers for sandwiches, fruits, vegetables, desserts. Plastics, such as beverage bottles, will have to be collected and recycled at the rate of 90% by 2025.

The MEPs also agreed to reduce post-consumption waste from tobacco product filters containing plastic by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030. The EU’s research states that:

“One cigarette butt can pollute between 500 and 1000 litres of water, and thrown on the roadway, it can take up to twelve years to disintegrate. They are the second most littered single-use plastic items.”

Moreover, the member states will need to ensure that at least 50% of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic is collected per year, with a recycling target of at least 15% by 2025.

This plan also includes Extended Producer Responsibility schemes that include the cost of clean-up, collection and recycling, and consumer awareness raising measures. The producers will have an obligation to label products to inform consumers about the presence of chemicals that are of concern in certain single-use plastic products.

According to the European Commission, more than 80% of marine litter is plastics. Due to its slow rate of decomposition, plastic accumulates in seas, oceans and on beaches worldwide. Plastic residue is found in various marine products, and thus also in the human food chain.

Thus, Frédérique Ries, the MEP responsible for the proposal, accurately noted that the vote was “a victory for our oceans, for the environment and for future generations.”

Baiba Šustere

Baiba Šustere is a writer whose work focuses on mindfulness, health and wellbeing.