EU unveils plans to tackle plastic pollution

The European Commission yesterday unveiled how it plans to cut down on the 10 most common single-use plastic products littering Europe’s beaches and seas.

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This includes a ban on plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, and sticks for balloons, which will all have to be made from more sustainable materials instead.

Single-use plastic products will not be allowed to enter the market if there are readily available and affordable alternatives, while producers must help cover the costs of cleaning up litter.

“Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food,” the commission’s first vice-president, Frans Timmermans, said yesterday.

“Today's proposals will reduce single use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures. We will ban some of these items, and substitute them with cleaner alternatives.”

The 10 most common single-use plastics, along with abandoned fishing gear, account for 70% of all marine litter in Europe, which is thought to be putting the lives of countless animals at risk.

Yesterday’s plans include requirements for producers to pay for awareness-raising measurers for food and drink containers, wrappers, cigarette butts, wet wipes, balloons, and lightweight plastic bags.

EU member states will be obliged to collect 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, and have been advised to adopt consumption reduction targets, or make alternative products available at the point of sale.

They will also have to raise consumer awareness about the negative impact of single-use plastics and fishing gear, and the available re-use systems and waste management options.

Certain products like sanitary towels will require clear and standardised labelling indicating how they should be disposed, the negative environmental impacts, and the presence of plastics in the items.

“Plastic can be fantastic, but we need to use it more responsibly,” European Commission vice-president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, said.

“This is an opportunity for Europe to lead the way, creating products that the world will demand for decades to come, and extracting more economic value from our precious and limited resources.”

 

Image credit: Shutterstock

Author: 

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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