Single-use plastics such as plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks or cotton buds will be banned in the EU from 2021, with reduction measures agreed for several other items for which no alternative exists under draft plans approved this week by the European Parliament (EP).
The MEPs expanded the list of single-use plastics to be banned from the EU market from 2021 by adding products made of oxo-degradable plastics, such as bags or packaging and fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene.
The consumption of several other items, for which no alternative exists, will have to be reduced by EU 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. EU member states will draft national plans to encourage the use of products suitable for multiple use, as well as re-using and recycling, according to a press release from the EP.
New EU rules, adopted by MEPs on 24 October, tackle lost fishing gear and the 10 single-use plastic products most widely found on European shores. Together these two groups account for 70% of marine litter. https://t.co/MuxLbTd02b pic.twitter.com/et1jCsuUcT
— European Parliament (@Europarl_EN) October 24, 2018
Other plastics, such as beverage bottles, will have to be collected separately and recycled at a rate of 90% by 2025.
MEPs agreed that reduction measures should also cover waste from tobacco products, in particular cigarette filters containing plastic, which would have to be reduced by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030.
One cigarette butt can pollute between 500 and 1000 liters of water, and thrown on the roadway, it can take up to 12 years to disintegrate. They are the second most littered single-use plastic items. EU 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, which will need to contribute to meeting the recycling target. EU 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.
The EP is due to enter into negotiations with the Council of the EU in November with the aim of agreeing a directive on single-use plastics.
According to the European Commission, more than 80% of marine litter is plastics and 70% consists of items covered by measures backed by the EP. 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.
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.
The costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe is estimated at EUR 22 billion by 2030.