EU parliament approves ban on single-use plastics to fight pollution

EU – The European Union legislators have approved a sweeping ban on single-use plastic products in renewed efforts to tackle plastic waste and micro plastic pollution.

The European Parliament has voted in favor of ‘The Single Use Plastics Directive’ (SUDP) which criminalizes the use of ten single-use plastics that are most commonly found across European nations.

Depending on the availability of alternatives in the market, the ban on cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for balloons, as well as cups, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene will be banned effective 2021.

The EU has also committed to collect and recycle 90% of beverage bottles by 2029.

This comes to address the global concerns around plastic pollution with a particular focus on bringing a solution to marine plastic pollution.

The new European law requires tobacco companies to cover the costs for the collection of cigarette butts while fishing gear manufacturers will have to pay for the retrieval of any plastic nets that have been left at sea.

The law dictates a renewed focus on raising public awareness, mandating producers of items such as tobacco filters, plastic cups, sanitary towels and wet wipes to explain to users how to appropriately dispose of them.

The SUDP is part of the EU Plastics Strategy, which sought to lay out a European strategy for the plastic pollution crisis, necessitating the engagement of members from across the entire value chain.

The SEDP also looks to introduce measures to reduce the consumption of food containers and beverage cups made of plastic and add specific marking and labeling of certain products.

According to the EC, plastics make up more than 80% of marine litter, which has disastrous effects on wildlife and habitats.

The EU notes that because of its slow rate of decomposition, plastic residue has been found in marine species as well as fish and shellfish and therefore also makes its way into the human food chain.

While acknowledging the need for a pollution-free environment, the EU-level Trade Association for European Plastics Converters (EuPC) has termed the legislation as flawed.

“We regret the adoption of such a regulatory act, discriminating a material that has a crucial role in solving the current challenges for society globally in the decades to come.

This vote will have a direct negative environmental impact and thousands of job losses all over Europe,” said Alexandre Dangis, EuPC Managing Director.

“It furthermore dictates countries and people how to live and change consumption habits without focusing on what’s key, namely education and anti-littering behavior.

Littering will continue but with other products. Regrettably, no proper impact assessment or LCAs have been done within the extraordinary short timeframe as EU politicians carried on the wave of fighting for a so-called good cause.”

Last year, the UK government unveiled the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme which requires businesses and manufacturers to pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste under government’s Resources and Waste Strategy.

China last year moved to ban the import of 24 varieties of solid waste, including types of plastic and unsorted paper.

The World Economic Forum estimates that there are about 150 million tons of plastic in the world’s seas, while research suggests there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the world’s oceans by 2050.

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