European Parliament Votes To Ban Single-Use Plastics
By Sofy Robertson
The European Parliament has voted to ban single-use plastic cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers as part of a sweeping law against plastic waste pollutes oceans and natural habitats.
The vote by MEPs paves the way for a ban on single-use plastics to come into force by 2021 in all EU member states. If the UK extends the Brexit transition period, they will also need to abide by the new rules.
UK Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, who has previously butted heads with the European commissioner over who is doing the most to cut plastic pollution, also wants to curb single-use plastics.
As well as targeting the most common plastic beach litter, the directive will also ban single-use polystyrene cups and those made from oxo-degradeable plastics that disintegrate into tiny fragments.
EU member states will need to introduce measures to reduce the use of plastic food containers and plastic lids for hot drinks. By 2025, plastic bottles should be made of 25% recycled content, and by 2029 90% of them should be recycled.
The EU will also tackle the scourge of wet wipes responsible for clogging sewers and forming part of ‘fatbergs’. Wet wipes, sanitary towels, tobacco filters and cups will be labelled if they are made with plastic and packaging will carry a warning to consumers of the environmental damage they do by disposing of these items incorrectly.
The principle of “polluter pays” will be extended to manufacturers of fishing nets so that companies, not fishing crews, will pay the cost of nets lost at sea.
Frans Timmermans, a European commission vice-president, who has spearheaded the plan, said:
“Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas. We got this, we can do this. Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world.” (The Guardian)
At the sitting in Strasbourg, 560 MEPs voted in favour of the recent agreement.
The directive only has to pass through formalities before it is published in the EU rulebook. Once that happens, EU member states will have two years to implement the directive.
The EU’s decisive action on single-use plastic is a much-needed measure as Europeans generate 25 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, yet less than 30% is collected for recycling.