Brussels, Belgium : Members of the EU Parliament approved a draft bill on Wednesday to ban single use plastics by 2021.
According to the European Commission, single use plastics make up 70 percent of marine litter and include items like plastic cutlery, straws and take out containers. Overall, 80 percent of Marine litter is plastics.
While single-use plastic is often most convenient for consumers, this legislation encourages better recycling and re-use. The litter from disposed plastic has an enormous impact on various animal species, and cost to the economy in clean up efforts, fisheries and tourism.
Single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks or cotton buds, will be banned in the EU under plans adopted on Wednesday.
These products, which make up over 70% of marine litter, will be banned from the EU market from 2021, under draft plans approved by Parliament.
MEPs added to this list of plastics banned from the EU market from 2021: products made of oxo-degradable plastics, such as bags or packaging and fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene.
National reduction targets for other non-banned plastics
The consumption of several other items, for which no alternative exists, will have to be reduced by member states by least 25% by 2025. This includes single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes or food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams. Member states will draft national plans to encourage the use of products suitable for multiple use, as well as re-using and recycling.
Other plastics, such as beverage bottles, will have to be collected separately and recycled at a rate of 90% by 2025.
Cigarette butts and lost fishing gear:
MEPs agreed that reduction measures should also cover waste from tobacco products, in particular cigarette filters containing plastic. It would have to be reduced by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030.
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.
Member states should also 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. Fishing gear represents 27% of waste found on Europe’s beaches.
Making producers more accountable:
Member states would have to ensure that tobacco companies cover the costs of waste collection for those products, including transport, treatment and litter collection. The same goes for producers of fishing gear containing plastic, who will need to contribute to meeting the recycling target.
The legislation, drafted by Frédérique Ries, was adopted with 571 votes to 53 and 34 abstentions. Parliament will now enter into negotiations with Council when EU ministers will vote.
The regulations will now have to be approved in talks with member states, some of which are likely to push back against the strict new rules.
One MEP said, if no action was taken, “by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans”.
The European Commission first proposed a ban in May, following a surge in public support.
Environmental groups were pleased with Wednesday’s vote. “The European Parliament has made history by voting to reduce single-use plastics and slash plastic pollution in our rivers and ocean,” said Justine Maillot, EU Affairs Project Officer at Surfrider Foundation Europe on behalf of Rethink Plastic.“Citizens across Europe want to see an end to plastic pollution. It’s now up to national governments to keep the ambition high, and resist corporate pressure to continue a throwaway culture.”
The EU’s research on the topic says about 150,000 tonnes of plastic are tossed into European waters every year. That is only a small contributor to the global problem, with an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic entering the world’s oceans annually. And once there, plastic can travel great distances on ocean currents.
Those plastics have a huge effect on marine life.
Fish and large aquatic mammals can be killed by the pollution. Whales can eat plastic bags, making it impossible for them to eat real food which can eventually lead to death.
When plastic debris breaks down from wear and tear, it does not decompose the way other products like wood do – but instead breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, becoming “microplastic”.
These tiny fragments often end up in fish and can then be passed on to humans.
Large volumes of plastic waste wash up on beaches, where they can be eaten by sea birds and other animals and kill them.