Published: Thu, May 31, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

European Union declares war on single-use plastics

EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans who is responsible for sustainable development said plastic waste was "a big problem" as it "ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food".

Bans on plastic items like straws have grown in popularity. This yr, Belgium, Denmark and Scotland are planning to ban a number of single-use plastic merchandise, and Italy, Portugal and Spain are anticipated to introduce related measures within the coming years. Tackling the plastics problem is a must and it can bring new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation.

The EU Commission said the scheme will initially target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear which are a severe threat to marine life.

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has floated the idea of banning plastic straws and cotton buds in the United Kingdom, but no new legislation has been proposed.

The proposal covers single-use plastic products that range from food containers and cups to personal care items, either prohibiting them, as in the case of straws and cutlery, or reducing their use, as in the case of food containers and beverage cups.

The EU Member States have targets to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drink cups, and are also being encouraged to set national reduction targets, make alternative products available at the point of sale, or ensure that single-use plastic products can not be provided free of charge. Plastic cotton swabs, plates, and swizzle sticks are also included in the ban.

Each country will also have to embark on an education campaign in which food producers are required to label products clearly and inform consumers how plastic waste is disposed.

For fishing gear, which accounts for 27 per cent of all beach litter, the Commission aims to complete the existing policy framework with producer responsibility schemes for fishing gear containing plastic. "We encourage the European Union and its Member States to support the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) process to eliminate plastic leakage into the ocean and ask them to adopt a "Paris Agreement" for Our Ocean".

The measure would need to be approved by all EU member states and the European Parliament, and it could take three or four years for the rules to go into effect. EU Commission officials urged for institutions to "deliver tangible results" before EU elections in twelve month's time.

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