After a proposal was tabled in May by the European Commission to ban the top 10 single-use plastic products that pollute oceans and beaches, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have voted 571-33 to approve measures that would ban commonly used plastic items like plastic bags, plastic straws, cotton swabs, disposable plastic plates, cups and cutlery by 2021. The directive also included measures to collect 90 percent of single-use polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles by 2025. The ban is expected to be enshrined in EU law by the end of the year.
The new measures introduced compel plastic producers to cover the costs of waste management and cleanup in addition to raising awareness about the polluting impacts of plastic packaging. The directives also include targets for the reduced usage of certain plastics to be met. Plastic fishing gear, which is often found in marine litter, will also be subject to harmonised standards with minimum collection and recycling targets set as well. Producers of plastic fishing gear will also be compelled to cover the costs of waste collection in ports. Synthetic textiles and non-decomposable microplastics in cosmetics are however not covered under the new measures.
Lise Kingo, the executive director of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’’s largest corporate sustainability initiative with more than 13,500 signatories from 170 countries, had warned at the European Forum of Industrial Biotechnology and the Bioeconomy (EFIB) that “our oceans will contain more plastics than fish” by 2050 if our current plastics usage habits are unchanged. The figures presented at the EFIB indicated that less than 10 percent of plastic waste in Europe is recycled if incineration is excluded. Plastics in the ocean are broken down into nanoparticles and ingested by micoorganisms and eventually end up on our dining table.