The European Union is hoping to make all plastic packaging either reusable or recyclable by the year 2030.
In an attempt to step up and become more environmentally responsible, the EU have set an ambitious task of eradicating single-use plastic to stem the damage it’s doing to rivers, countryside and oceans.
They aim to have all plastic packaging reusable or recyclable in the next 12 years, with single-use plastic (which is mainly used for things like disposable coffee cups) phased out.
This initiative will also receive funding for new, avant-grade plastic-based materials and designs.
The EU will be putting their plan into motion by May of this year – it’s a response to China’s pledge at the start of 2018 to no longer accept imports made from overseas waste products which can be recycled.
This has put many countries in the West, including the United Kingdom, in a precarious position as the plastic they send would normally be recycled. Instead, they’d be buried in a landfill due to their infrastructure not being equipped to deal with the growing waste.
While the UK will have to work out their plastic waste dilemma on their own terms (thanks for nothing Brexit), the EU will be working with all member nations to find a solution to the problem.
One avenue they’re exploring is potentially putting a tax on single-use plastics.
Vice-president of the EU commission, Frans Timmermans, told The Guardian:
If we don’t do anything about this, 50 years down the road we will have more plastic than fish in the oceans … we have all the seen the images, whether you watch [the BBC’s] Blue Planet, whether you watch the beaches in Asian countries after storms.
If children knew what the effects are of using single-use plastic straws for drinking sodas, or whatever, they might reconsider and use paper straws or no straws at all.
We are going to choke on plastic if we don’t do anything about this. How many millions of straws do we use every day across Europe? I would have people not use plastic straws any more. It only took me once to explain to my children and now, they go looking for paper straws, or don’t use straws at all. It’s an issue of mentality.
[One] of the challenges we face is to explain to consumers that arguably some of the options in terms of the colour of bottles you can buy will be more limited than before, but I’m sure if people understand you can’t buy that lively green bottle, it will have a different colour, but it can be recycled, people will buy into this.
By 2030 the EU hopes to see 55 per cent of all plastics recycled by 2030. As well as this, members are required to reduce bag use (per person) from 90 per cent to 40 per cent come 2026.
In regards to the proposed tax on single-use plastics, Timmermans (a former Dutch diplomat) would like there to be a study, adding:
In a perfect world the revenues of this tax will decrease very rapidly, we have to check in an impact assessment whether this is a sustainable form of income also for the EU’s finances. I think there is a lot of support out there.
While the UK will no longer be in the EU’s plans, in terms of environmental schemes, Theresa May’s government has drawn up their own programme which hopes to eradicate the need for unnecessary plastic waste within the next 25 years.
The PM also promised an extension on the 5p toll for plastic bags, which has proven to be a success so far.
The government will also explore the possibility of charging for single-use plastic containers from fast-food takeaways.
Yesterday, supermarket retailer Iceland pledged to go ‘plastic-free’ within the next five years.