The European Union has given the final approval for new regulations that will make all single-use plastic items, such as drinking straws, stirring sticks, and plastic cutlery, plates and cups, illegal starting from 2021 in Europe.
The manufacture and sale of expanded polystyrene containers, which are often used in fast food boxes, will also be prohibited.
The measure, adopted in record time, just 12 months after being first proposed by the European Commission, aims to reduce the millions of tons of plastic that that end up on Europe’s beaches every year.
Brussels calculates that more than 80 percent of the rubbish in the sea is made of plastic and the products that this directive prohibits make up 70 percent of that waste.
In addition to the bans, the directive sets a target for member states to collect 90 percent of plastic bottles by 2029. It also determines that plastic bottles must have a recycled material content of at least 25 percent by 2025 and of at least 30 percent by 2030.
The European Union is committed to encouraging recycling of other elements for which better alternatives to plastic do not exist at the moment, like fishing gear, to ensure that they are not thrown overboard at sea but rather that the fleet returns to land with them for recycling.
The objective is to cut the waste produced by these products in half, with the aim of avoiding environmental damage that would entail costs of €22 billion by 2030 and the emission of 3.4 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 ) by the same year.
In a statement, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development said:
“The new rules adopted today will help us to protect the health of our people and safeguard our natural environment, while promoting more sustainable production and consumption. We can all be proud that Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world.”
The Directive will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. The Member States will then have two years to transpose the legislation into their national law.