Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Brussels, Belgium (4E) – The European Union (EU) has issued a draft directive that will ban single-use plastic products and microplastics to significantly curb the enormous amounts of plastic waste generated every year.
The directive will go to the European Parliament and the European Council for approval. Should the directive be approved, the 27 EU-member states will be given a deadline to adapt to the changes. EU Commission (EC) officials urged institutions to “deliver tangible results” before EU elections in 12 month’s time.
The EC, the EU institution responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU, proposed new EU-wide rules aimed at reducing plastic pollution in cities and oceans by banning several plastic products.
It noted that single-use plastics such as plastic straws, bottles and cups and fishing gear accounts for 70 percent of trash in the ocean. It also said this move towards “innovative alternatives” could create some 30,000 jobs.
The EC plans to ban the top 10 single-use plastic products that wash up on Europe’s beaches and are found in its seas. These include plastic straws, plastic plates, plastic utensils, plastic coffee stirrers, cotton swabs with plastic stems and plastic balloon holders.
“Implementation of this proposal will aim to reduce littering by more than half for the 10 single use plastic items, avoiding environmental damage which would otherwise cost €223 billion by 2030. It will also avoid the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030,” said the EC.
The directive will also make EU countries set national targets for reducing the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups, force industry to help cover the costs of waste management. It will also encourage deposit refund schemes in countries so that 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles are collected by 2025.
In addition, producers of certain products will be required to help cover the costs of clean-up and waste treatment. This move will affect producers of tobacco products with filters (such as cigarette butts), plastic bags, candy wrappers, potato chip packages and wet wipes. Menstrual pads, wet wipes and balloons will be required to add a label indicating how the product should be disposed.
Producers of fishing gear, which accounts for 27 percent of beach litter, will be required to cover the costs of waste collection in ports. Microplastics, or plastic particles smaller than 5 milimeters in diameter, accumulate in the sea and enter the food chain. Microplastics are used in personal care products such as toothpaste.
“Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food,” said EU First Vice President Frans Timmermans. He said there will be a particular emphasis on substituting banned or reduced items with eco-friendly alternatives.
The German government supports the EC’s plans. German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said that single-use plastics “should be regulated at a European level and be gradually taken out of circulation.”
Plastic waste poses life-threatening dangers to marine life, and birds and animals further up the food chain. Many animals consume plastic waste or get caught in it, eventually becoming sick and dying as a result. Microplastics take thousands of years to degrade.
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