The European Parliament has just voted to ban single-use plastics, in a bid to tackle waste products entering the oceans.
Under the new plans, products including plastic plates, cutlery, straws and cotton buds will be banned as of 2021.
The new ban is intended to force countries to use valid alternatives, most of which are already available. The ban was initially proposed in May this year, as opposition to single-use plastic items spread throughout the continent.
In the new proposals, the European Parliament also set out plans to hold companies to account for their own plastic waste.
Frederique Ries, a Belgian liberal who was responsible for the bill, said, as per the Independent:
We have adopted the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics. It is up to us now to stay the course in the upcoming negotiations with the Council, due to start as early as November.
The regulations will have to be approved in talks with member states of the EU, though some are expected to push against them.
Under the new rules, member states would apparently have to ensure tobacco companies cover the cost of collecting and processing cigarette butts in a move to limit the number entering the environment by 80 per cent in the next 12 years.
Similar rules would be imposed on companies producing fishing gear, who would have to make sure 50 per cent of all lost or abandoned fishing equipment containing plastic is collected every year.
‘Ghost fishing’, where sea life becomes trapped in abandoned fishing equipment, is thought to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of animals per year. Fishing gear also makes up over 25 per cent of waste found on the beaches of Europe.
The EU member states would also be expected to recycle 90 per cent of their plastic bottles by 2025, with producers contributing to the waste management costs.
Other plans set out in the new proposals include reducing the use of other plastic items, which currently have no alternatives, by 25 per cent by 2025, such as fast food containers.
The European Parliament backed the proposals with a 571-53 majority vote.
Ms Ries added:
Today’s vote paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive.
It is essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe, estimated at €22bn (£19bn) by 2030.
On Monday this week, October 22, the UK’s environment secretary Michael Gove announced plans to ban plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds in the UK as early as next year.
Each year, 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic cotton buds are used in England.
Today we step up our efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.
Though some plastic items will not be banned in all cases – some people with disabilities depend on straws to drink, for example – the government will now decide on who will still be able to sell the items or not.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.