A variety of single-use plastic items could be banned in Europe to help reduce marine pollution. The European Commission is seeking approval to ban 10 different plastic products, including fishing gear. Ultimately, the goal is use plastics more responsibly and enforces producers to help in the cleanup efforts.
The European Commission will need approval of all 28 Member States and the Parliament in order to pass the new regulations. If approved, they expect them to be in full effect by 2030. Estimates show that with these new rules, Europe can cut down on 3.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and consumers will save around $7.65 billion US.
Plastic items making the list are the very common drink cups and food containers, along with cotton buds, eating utensils, plates, straws, drink stirrers, balloon sticks. All these items represent 70 percent of marine litter locally according to the European Commission. Expanding around the world, that number jumps up to 85 percent.
“Plastic can be fantastic, but we need to use it more responsibly,” Vice President Jyrki Katainen said in a press release. “Single use plastics are not a smart economic or environmental choice, and today's proposals will help business and consumers to move towards sustainable alternatives.”
Europeans have already successfully limited their use of plastic bags, so the parliament is turning their focus to other single-use items. If there are affordable alternatives, single-use plastic will not be permitted. Not only are they wanting to implement these rules, but they want to have plastic producers also pay for waste management they ultimately create.
These new regulations will also require producers to raise more awareness on plastic pollution. Incentives will be given to those that choose a more sustainable approach to creating their products. This extends to those that create wet wipes, balloons, lightweight plastic bags, condiment packages, food wrappers, and tobacco filters.
Other obligations include requiring Member States to collect 90 percent of single-use plastic drink bottles by 2025. This would force them to implement some sort of return scheme and give consumers incentives to dispose of these products properly. They also need to raise awareness on the damages that plastic waste can have on the environment.
“Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem,” First Vice President Frans Timmermans said in a press release, “because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food...We will ban some of these items, and substitute them with cleaner alternatives so people can still use their favourite products."
Products like wet wipes and balloons will need to have improved labeling on how to dispose of the product and/or its container responsibly. They must include how much plastic is used to create the product and it must also detail negative effects it can have on the environment.
While these moves are welcomed by organizations like the Rethink Plastic Alliance, they would like to also see targets set for limiting single-use plastic in these countries. This is commonly found in goals to reduce carbon emissions over the coming decades. Back in April, the organization challenged the European Parliament to ban plastic bottles.
PlasticsEurope, who represents the local plastic producing industry, immediately responded by supporting the objectives and agree with raising awareness. They noted how they’ve already taken steps to limit marine pollution. However, they call for legislation to not seek shortcuts like outright banning plastic items. They advise that alternatives may not be sustainable. Also, a better waste management infrastructure needs to be implemented.
While the effects of implementing an outright ban are both positive and negative, these regulations at least plan to inform consumers on the problems with plastic waste. This could lead to more people opting out of settling for single-use plastic, and they would phase out over time as more sustainable products come onto the market at affordable prices.