EU ban on single-use plastic items planned to start as early as 2021

MEPs also added to this list of plastics banned from the EU market from 2021, with products made of oxo-degradable plastics, such as bags or packaging, and fast food containers made of expanded polystyrene.

The consumption of several other items for which no alternative exists will have to be reduced by member states by at least 25% by 2025. This includes single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes or food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams. Member states will draft national plans to encourage the use of products suitable for multiple uses, as well as reusing and recycling. Other plastics, such as beverage bottles, will have to be collected separately and recycled at a rate of 90% by 2025.

MEPs agreed that reduction measures should also cover waste from tobacco products, in particular cigarette filters containing plastic. It would have to be reduced by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030. One cigarette butt can pollute between 500 and 1000 litres of water, and thrown on the roadway, it can take up to 12 years to disintegrate. They are the second most littered single-use plastic items. Governments would have to ensure that tobacco companies cover the costs of waste collection for those products, including transport, treatment and litter collection.

Member states should also guarantee that at least 50% of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic is collected each year, with a recycling target of at least 15% by 2025. Fishing gear represents 27% of waste found and reported on Europe’s beaches. Producers of fishing gear containing plastic will need to cover the costs of waste collection and will need to contribute to meeting the recycling target.

Bill Wirtz, policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, says this approval is bad news for European consumers. He said: “90% of the Parliament just voted to ban a vast array of single-use plastic items, including oxo-degradable plastics, and takeaway boxes and cups made of Styrofoam, as well as straws, coffee-stirrers balloon sticks and ear buds made of plastics. I’m fairly positive that those 90% did not investigate the evidence of whether alternative products are actually better on an environmental level.”

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