The European Parliament has approved an EU-wide ban on the sale of single-use plastic products, such as plates, cutlery, straws, cotton buds. This ban that will come to effect in 2021 was supported by a vast majority of 560 MEPs. The Single-Use Plastic Directive reinforces the existing EU concept of Extended Producer Responsibility by introducing additional obligations on importers and producers, notably tobacco companies, to mitigate the consequences of their products upon the environment. The directive also introduces mandatory information on street littering of plastic and its negative effects on the environment. The warning should be placed on the packaging of these products.
The problem with plastic waste is a global one, which poses a major burden on the environment. According to the European Commission, plastics account for more than 80 percent of the total waste currently swirling around in world’s seas and oceans and the products covered by this directive account for up to 70 percent of that waste. To that end, the new directive also sets a target for the member states to collect plastic bottles at 90 percent efficiency by 2029. By 2025, the proportion of recycled content in new plastic bottles should reach 25 percent and should be increased to 30 percent by 2030. This is not the first time that a discussion like this has taken place. Latest scientific studies show that as early as 2050, there should be more plastics than fish in the world’s seas and oceans.
This prompted the EU to publish the EU Plastic Strategy last year that highlighted the impact of plastics on the environment while pointing to the products that negatively affect it the most, and it is this directive that is meant to provide concrete solutions. EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, welcomed the MEPs’ stance, saying that this is one of the most requested and supported EU initiatives. According to him, Europeans should be proud of the new rules because they tackle the plastic infestation right at the source of the pollution itself. The European Commission described the proposed directive as the world’s most ambitious legal instrument dealing with marine and ocean waste, stressing that if it’s possible, and there are clearly affordable alternatives available, single-use plastics will disappear from the market completely.
However, the new directive and the general ban on single-use plastics also have their fair share of critics. According to the European Plastics Converters (EuPC), the legislation is short-sighted and even half-baked. “This vote will have a direct negative impact on the environment and thousands of jobs across Europe. It dictates how to live and change their consumption habits to countries and people without focusing on the key aspect, which is education on this matter,” said EuPC Executive Director Alexandre Dangis. According to him, environmental pollution will continue, as plastics will just be replaced with other materials. However, the EuPC expects the new directive will surely be put into practice as it had a broad political support and even the upcoming elections to the European Parliament will not change anything about it.