The European Commission has proposed a ban a dozen consumer products containing plastic for which alternatives are readily available, among several measures to reduce marine pollution. The prohibition will apply to cotton swabs, cutlery, plates, straws, drink mixing sticks and balloon sticks, which will in the future only be produced from more durable materials.
This is a “targeted and proportionate” initiative, directly addressing the top ten sources of marine litter in Europe, ie the ten most commonly used single-use plastic items found on Europe’s beaches, commented Vice-President of the Commission, Frans Timmermans.
With abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear, they collectively account for 70 percent of all marine litter.
“The EU may not be the biggest contributor to the problem of plastic marine products, but it wants to be the first for solutions – it’s a race for first place,” commented Timmermans.
In this case, the environmental concern is in line with the economic interest. “Europe could be the first to create the products the world will need in the coming decades and to derive greater economic value from resources that are valuable and limited,” commented Vice President and Commissioner for Europe. Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen.
The Commission also proposes targets to reduce the consumption of plastic products which cannot be directly replaced, but these objectives will be left to the discretion of the Member States.
It also envisages that manufacturers will bear part of the cost of waste management and cleaning and the costs of raising awareness about food containers, sachets and packaging (eg for crisps and sweets), beverage containers and cups, tobacco products with filters (such as cigarette butts), wet wipes, balloons and lightweight plastic bags.
Measures will encourage industry to develop cleaner alternatives for these products.
Member States will also have to achieve a collection target of 90 percent for single-use plastic beverage bottles by 2025, for example by setting up deposit systems.
Finally, some products will require clear and standardised labelling indicating how it can be disposed of, the adverse effects of the product on the environment and the presence of plastics in the products.
The EU executive hopes to see its proposal voted on before the 2019 elections and the measures written into law no later than 2025.