Europe plans to ban single-use plastic items in effort to clean up oceans

29 May 2018

Europe plans to ban single-use plastic items in effort to clean up oceans

The European Union is proposing to ban single-use plastic items such as cutlery, straws and cotton buds in an effort to clean up the oceans.

The European Commission wants to ban 10 items that make up 70% of all litter in European waters and on beaches. The list of items they want to ban also includes plastic plates and drink stirrers.

The EU aims not just to ban the plastic items, but further impose the cost of waste management and and cleanup efforts onto plastic producers. It is also proposing that EU states must collect 90% of single-use plastic bottles by 2025 through new recycling programs.

The European Commission estimates that these rules, once fully implemented in 2030, could cost businesses over €3 billion ($4.6 billion) per year. But they could also save consumers about €6.5 billion ($10 billion) per year, create 30,000 jobs, and avoid €22 billion ($33.5 billion) in environmental damage and cleanup costs.

The Rethink Plastic Alliance — an association of environmental organisations — called the proposals “a leap forward in tackling plastic pollution” but criticised some perceived shortcomings.

“This could result in countries claiming they are taking the necessary steps as long as any reduction is achieved, regardless of how small,” the organisation said in a statement.

The proposals do not aim to reduce the use of plastic cups and food containers, it said.

Plastic producers, such as Plastics Europe, have also voiced their criticism of the regulations, saying, “Plastic product bans are not the solution,” it said in a statement, and noted that “alternative products may not be more sustainable.”

Statistics show that only 14% of plastic gets collected for recycling as opposed to 58% for paper and 90% of steel and iron.

Research into the effect of plastic littering has showed harrowing results, with plastic estimated to outweigh fish in the world’s oceans by 2050. The results have spurred policy makers, individuals and companies into action.

Companies such as Coca-Cola, Nestle and Unilever have all taken measures to reduce the harsh effects of plastic on the environment, with pledges to smash the amount of plastic they use and throw away in the United Kingdom.