The European Commission has welcomed the adoption by the European Parliament of ambitious measures it had earlier proposed to tackle marine litter coming from the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on European beaches, as well as abandoned fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics.
The rules on Single-Use Plastics items and fishing gear, addressing the 10 most found items on EU beaches place the EU at the forefront of the global fight against marine litter, the Commission said.
They are part of the EU Plastics Strategy – the most comprehensive strategy in the world adopting a material-specific lifecycle approach with the vision and objectives to have all plastic packaging placed on the EU market as reusable or recyclable by 2030.
The Single-Use Plastics Directive adopted by the European Parliament is an essential element of the Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan as it stimulates the production and use of sustainable alternatives that avoid marine litter.
In a vote on March 27, the European Parliament approved a new law banning single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws and cotton buds sticks.
A total of 560 MEPs voted in favour of the agreement with EU ministers, 35 against and 28 abstained.
The products that will be banned in the EU by 2021 are:
Single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks)
Single-use plastic plates
Cotton bud sticks made of plastic
Plastic balloon sticks
Oxo-degradable plastics and food containers and expanded polystyrene cups
EU countries will have to achieve a 90 per cent collection target for plastic bottles by 2029, and plastic bottles will have to contain at least 25 per cent of recycled content by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.
The agreement also strengthens the application of the polluter pays principle, in particular for tobacco, by introducing extended responsibility for producers. This new regime will also apply to fishing gear, to ensure that manufacturers, and not fishermen, bear the costs of collecting nets lost at sea.
The legislation finally stipulates that labelling on the negative environmental impact of throwing cigarettes with plastic filters in the street should be mandatory, as well as for other products such as plastic cups, wet wipes and sanitary napkins.
Following the vote, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas. We got this, we can do this. Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world.”
Vice-President Jyrki Katainen said: “Once implemented, the new rules will not only prevent plastic pollution, but also make the European Union the world leader in a more sustainable plastic policy.”
European Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: “After the favourable vote by the (European) Parliament today, our main task will be to ensure that these ambitious measures are quickly implemented in practice, which will be common work for public authorities, producers and consumers alike.”