Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 2°C
marine litter

Plastic straws, cutlery and cotton buds could be banned across the EU

Some 500,000 tonnes of plastic waste from the EU end up in the sea every year.

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has proposed that single-use plastics such as straws, cotton buds and cutlery be banned across the European Union (EU).

The Commission said that 500,000 tonnes of plastic waste from the EU end up in the sea every year.

EC European Commission / Twitter European Commission / Twitter / Twitter

Ten single-use plastic products and fishing gear account for 70% of the marine litter in Europe. Across the world, plastics make up 85% of marine litter.

The Commission said the new rules are “proportionate and tailored to get the best results”, meaning different measures will be applied to different products.

“Where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market.

For products without straightforward alternatives, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; design and labelling requirements and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers.

“Together, the new rules will put Europe ahead of the curve on an issue with global implications,” the Commission said in a statement.

The Commission noted that, since new rules for plastic bags were introduced in 2015, 72% of Europeans said they have cut down on their use of the bags.

The new rules include:

Plastic ban in certain products: Where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market. The ban will apply to plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons, which will all have to be made exclusively from more sustainable materials instead.

Single-use drinks containers made with plastic will only be allowed on the market if their caps and lids remain attached.

Consumption reduction targets: Member States will have to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups. They can do so by setting national reduction targets, making alternative products available at the point of sale or ensuring that single-use plastic products cannot be provided free of charge.

Obligations for producers: Producers will help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness raising measures for food containers, packets and wrappers (such as for crisps and sweets), drinks containers and cups, tobacco products with filters (such as cigarette butts), wet wipes, balloons and lightweight plastic bags.

The industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products.

Collection targets: Member States will be obliged to collect 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, for example through deposit refund schemes.

Labelling requirements: Certain products will require a clear and standardised labelling which indicates how waste should be disposed, the negative environmental impact of the product and the presence of plastics in the products. This will apply to sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons.

Awareness-raising measures: Member States will be obliged to raise consumers’ awareness about the negative impact of littering of single-use plastics and fishing gear, as well as about the available reuse systems and waste management options for all these products.

For fishing gear, which accounts for 27% of all beach litter, the Commission aims to complete the existing policy framework with producer responsibility schemes for fishing gear containing plastic.

Producers of plastic fishing gear will be required to cover the costs of waste collection from port reception facilities and its transport and treatment. They will also cover the costs of awareness-raising measures. Details on the new rules for fishing gear are available here.

shutterstock_1087513277 Shutterstock / Rich Carey File photo Shutterstock / Rich Carey / Rich Carey

The Commission’s proposals will now go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption. The Commission said it “urges the other institutions to treat this as a priority file, and to deliver tangible results for Europeans before the elections in May 2019″.

World Environment Day

To mark the World Environment Day on 5 June, the Commission will also launch an EU-wide awareness-raising campaign to put the spotlight on consumer choice and highlight people’s role in combatting plastic pollution and marine litter.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said his party “wholeheartedly” welcomes the new rules, saying many of the same measures are included in its Waste Reduction Bill.

Ryan said the rules will “ensure that single-use plastic cups and food containers cannot be provided free of charge, which is why we are also proposing a 15 cent ‘latte levy’ on plastic cups to fund a new compostable litter collection system”.

The party also wants 90% of single-use plastic bottles to be recycled by 2025. “That can only be achieved by the introduction of a nationwide deposit refund scheme which we are proposing and which the Commission also recommends,” Ryan said.

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan said the proposals are “a step in a right direction but not ambitious enough to meet the threat of plastic pollution”.

“It is crucial that the concept of reduction remains at the heart of the EU plastics strategy and pressure is kept on industry to explore alternatives to single-use plastics.

“Ireland has the second highest plastic bottle consumption in the EU, with around 155 bottles per person per year. Both the Irish government and EU need to concentrate on reduction and set binding rules and targets for industry,” she said.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel