The European Union has passed a proposal to ban single-use plastic items like plates, straws, balloon sticks, cutlery or cotton buds. Members of the European Union expanded the list of prohibited items by adding products made of Oxo-degradable plastics such as packaging and fast-food containers made of polystyrene to the original bill. The ban is going to be implemented in 2021.
80% of ocean litter consists of single-use plastic. This has been a reason for a high number of marine life deaths. Plastic breaks down very slowly and keeps on breaking into smaller and smaller pieces. Ultimately, it may become irretrievable.
There has been evidence that this plastic is now entering the human food chain. Marine life accidentally ingests smaller pieces of plastic from the ocean and consumption of these animals introduces these plastics to the human diet. Recent research from Plymouth University revealed that over 700 marine species are affected by ocean plastic pollution.
The parliament has also passed a motion that requires member states to reduce the use of non-recyclable plastic boxes by at least 25% by the year 2025. Each member state is also required to formulate and regulate a plan to encourage the use of recyclable plastic. They are also needed to increase the recycling rate to 90% by the year 2025.
Another issue being administered is cigarette butts. Cigarette butts contain filters and can pollute 500 to 1000 liters of water. In open air, a cigarette may take up to 12 years to decompose. Cigarette butts are considered to be the second most polluting item, and EU has set targets to reduce cigarette waste by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030.
Third most polluting item is lost fishing gear. A total of 27% of litter found on European beaches comprises of fishing gear. The EU is working with the fishing gear producers to reduce the amount of plastic in their products and to make fishing nets retrievable.
Rapporteur for the bill, Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE) said, “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. Today’s vote paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive. It is essential to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe, estimated at 22 billion euros by 2030.”