The EU adopted new plans last week to ban single-use plastic items like plates, straws, cutlery, balloon sticks and cotton buds — which make up over 70 percent of marine litter — by 2021. Under draft plans approved by Parliament, MEPs also added items to the banned list that contained products made of oxo-degradable plastics, like bags and fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene.
The ban also incorporates a plan for several other items that do not have an alternative, like single-use sandwich boxes and containers for fruits, veggies, ice cream and desserts. For those products, EU member states will need to reduce their use by at least 25 percent by 2025. The strategy for those items includes using multiple-use products and recycling. Parliament also approved other plastics, like beverage bottles, to be collected separately and then recycled at a rate of 90 percent by 2025.
MEPs have also targeted waste from tobacco products, particularly cigarette filters that contain plastic, in the plastic ban. The plan for those items is a 50 percent reduction by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2030. Cigarette butts are the second-most littered single-use plastic item in the EU, and just one can pollute between 500 and 1000 liters (132 and 264 gallons) of water. When thrown on the roadway, they can take up to 12 years to degrade.
There is also a plan for lost or abandoned fishing gear, which represents about 27 percent of the waste found on European beaches. Member states are to ensure that at least half of it is collected each year, with a recycling target of 15 percent by 2025. The costs to reach the goals set for cigarette butts and fishing gear is to be paid for by tobacco companies and manufacturers of fishing gear.
Frédérique Ries, who drafted the report, said that the ban is an ambitious directive that is essential for protecting the marine environment.
Image via Tim Parkinson