In the near future legislation will be put in place to ban or strongly deter the use of single use plastics e.g. straws, coffee cups, etc.
In the meantime as the season approaches it seems a good time for us all to think about the immediate impact we are having by our use continued use of these items.
If anyone is/has taken preventative measures to reduce their use of single use plastic items we would like to promote and share this best practice with the wider community.
Single-use plastics ban approved by European Parliament
The European Parliament has voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the union in a bid to stop pollution of the oceans.
MEPs backed a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks.
The proposal also calls for a reduction in single-use plastic for food and drink containers like plastic cups.
One MEP said, if no action was taken, “by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans”.
The European Commission proposed a ban in May, following a surge in public support attributed to documentaries such as David Attenborough’s BBC Blue Planet series.
The measure still has to clear some procedural hurdles, but is expected to go through. The EU hopes it will go into effect across the bloc by 2021.
The UK will also have to incorporate the rules into national law if the ban becomes a fully-fledged directive before the end of a Brexit transition period.
After the Parliament vote was backed by 571-53, the MEP responsible for the bill, Frédérique Ries, said it was “a victory for our oceans, for the environment and for future generations.”
Several countries are already considering proposals to target disposable plastic products – including the UK.
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What’s being banned?
The directive targets some of the most common ocean-polluting plastics.
The list of banned items such as cutlery and cotton buds was chosenbecause there are readily available alternatives, such as paper straws and cardboard containers.
Other items, “where no alternative exists” will still have to be reduced by 25% in each country by 2025. Examples given include burger boxes and sandwich wrappers.
MEPs also tacked on amendments to the plans for cigarette filters, a plastic pollutant that is common litter on beaches. Cigarette makers will have to reduce the plastic by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030.
Another ambitious target is to ensure 90% of all plastic drinks bottles are collected for recycling by 2025. Currently, bottles and their lids account for about 20% of all the sea plastic, the European Parliament report said.
Manufacturers will also have to take more responsibility for what happens to their plastic products and packaging.
How big is the problem?
The EU’s research on the topic says about 150,000 tonnes of plastic are tossed into European waters every year.
That is only a small contributor to the global problem, with an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic entering the world’s oceans annually. And once there, plastic can travel great distances on ocean currents.
Those plastics have a huge effect on marine life.
Fish and large aquatic mammals can be killed by the pollution. Whales can eat plastic bags, making it impossible for them to eat real food which can eventually lead to death.
When plastic debris breaks down from wear and tear, it does not decompose the way other products like wood do – but instead breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, becoming “microplastic”.
These tiny fragments often end up in fish and can then be passed on to humans.
Large volumes of plastic waste wash up on beaches, where they can be eaten by sea birds and other animals and kill them.
Plastic Oceans: MEPs back EU ban on throwaway plastics by 2021
single-use cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers to be banned from 2021
MEPs added oxo-plastics and certain polystyrenes
plastics where no alternatives available to be reduced by at least 25% by 2025
measures against cigarette filters and lost fishing gear
Single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks or cotton buds, will be banned in the EU under plans adopted on Wednesday.
These products, which make up over 70% of marine litter, will be banned from the EU market from 2021, under draft plans approved by Parliament.
MEPs added to this list of plastics banned from the EU market from 2021: products made of oxo-degradable plastics, such as bags or packaging and fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene.
National reduction targets for other non-banned plastics
The consumption of several other items, for which no alternative exists, will have to be reduced by member states by least 25% by 2025. This includes single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes or food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams. Member states will draft national plans to encourage the use of products suitable for multiple use, as well as re-using and recycling.
Other plastics, such as beverage bottles, will have to be collected separately and recycled at a rate of 90% by 2025.
Cigarette butts and lost fishing gear
MEPs agreed that reduction measures should also cover waste from tobacco products, in particular cigarette filters containing plastic. It would have to be reduced by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030.
One cigarette butt can pollute between 500 and 1000 litres of water, and thrown on the roadway, it can take up to twelve years to disintegrate. They are the second most littered single-use plastic items.
Member states should also ensure that at least 50% of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic is collected per year, with a recycling target of at least 15% by 2025. Fishing gear represents 27% of waste found on Europe’s beaches.
Making producers more accountable
Member states would have to ensure that tobacco companies cover the costs of waste collection for those products, including transport, treatment and litter collection. The same goes for producers of fishing gear containing plastic, who will need to contribute to meeting the recycling target.
Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE), rapporteur, 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 in order 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.”
The report, drafted by Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE), was adopted with 571 votes to 53 and 34 abstentions. Parliament will enter into negotiations with Council when EU ministers will have set their own position on the file.
According to the European Commission, more than 80% of marine litter is plastics. The products covered by these restrictions constitute 70% of all marine litter items. Due to its slow rate of decomposition, plastic accumulates in seas, oceans and on beaches in the EU and worldwide. Plastic residue is found in marine species – such as sea turtles, seals, whales and birds, but also in fish and shellfish, and therefore in the human food chain.
While plastics are a convenient, adaptable, useful and economically valuable material, they need to be better used, re-used and recycled. When littered, the economic impact of plastics encompasses not just the lost economic value in the material, but also the costs of cleaning up and losses for tourism, fisheries and shipping.