A Europe-wide ban on plastic could be in place by 2021
Throwaway plastic items such as cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers could soon be banned across Europe backed by measures to drive down the growing mountain of single-use plastic waste.
The EU Parliament voted strongly in favour of a complete ban by 2021 on a range of plastic products which have readily available, non-plastic alternatives, such as plates, cutlery and balloon sticks.
Also approved is a phase-out of products such as bags, packaging, and fast food containers made from expanded polystyrene.
Speaking after the vote Frédérique Ries, the Belgian responsible for the package of plastic-fighting measures, said that Europe had
“adopted the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics”.
“Today’s vote paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive,” she said in a statement. “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.”
Not all single-use plastic items would face a complete ban under the proposals. The consumption of items for which no non-plastic alternative exist would have to be reduced by EU member states by at least 25 per cent by 2025 under the new rules. Largely affecting the food service and retail sector, these items include single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes and food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams.
Member states would also have to draft national plans to encourage the use of products suitable for multiple use and recycling.
In addition, other products such as drinks bottles would have to be collected separately and recycled at a rate of 90 per cent by 2025 under the proposed legislation. The average recycling rate for PET drinks bottles across Europe at the moment is 57 per cent, although this varies significantly by country.
The vote comes on the back of public outcry over the impact of plastic waste on oceans, following Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 documentary series last year. Numerous retailers have sought to cut out plastic straws and other items in response, while the UK government is drawing up plans to ban some single-use plastics independent of EU efforts.
Yesterday’s vote comes during a week to forget for the plastics recycling industry in the UK, with British waste having been found illegally dumped abroad rather than recycled, and the UK plastics sector facing an Environment Agency probe over suspected fraud.
The EU package certainly delivers a strong signal to businesses to plan moves away from certain plastic items as quickly as possible. Yet the smartest firms will concentrate not just on outlawing high-profile plastics, but ensuring their replacements do not hamper the fight about climate change. In the EU at least, yesterday’s vote suggests the tide is turning on our throwaway culture.
[Via Business Green]