European lawmakers have approved a new law banning single-use plastic items, to go in effect by 2021.
This is how you do it. You see a problem – in this case, that 80 percent of marine litter is plastic, and it’s decimating wildlife and destroying the marine environment – and you make laws to fix it. You don’t hem and haw and cater to lobbyists and corporate interests, you just say “enough is enough.”
Bravo to the European Parliament for doing just that. We reported on the plan last year, but on Wednesday of this week, 560 Members of the European Parliament voted in favor of the agreement – with 35 voting against – that the following items will be banned in the EU by 2021:• Single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks)
• Single-use plastic plates
• Plastic straws
• Cotton swab sticks made of plastic
• Plastic balloon sticks
• Oxo-degradable plastics and food containers and expanded polystyrene cups
And that’s not all. EU states will have to achieve a 90 percent collection target for plastic bottles by 2029, and plastic bottles will have to contain at least 25 percent of recycled content by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030.
But wait, there’s more! (What kind of heaven is this place?) There will also be stricter application of the “polluter pays” principal in which, get this, the manufacturer pays for recycling, rather than having it become the responsibility of the consumer. Tobacco companies will be required to cover the costs for public collection of cigarette butts, which are the second most littered single-use plastic item. Likewise with fishing gear; manufacturers, and not fishermen, will bear the costs of collecting nets lost at sea.
And why stop there? Other disposable items will require mandatory labeling on the environmental peril of tossing the items. This is for products like cigarettes with plastic filters, wet wipes, and sanitary napkins.
“This legislation will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22 billion - the estimated cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030,” says Lead MEP Frédérique Ries.
“Europe now has a legislative model to defend and promote at international level, given the global nature of the issue of marine pollution involving plastics. This is essential for the planet.”
So while the United States is busy banning bans on plastic bags and having cultural wars over straws, thank heavens our savvy neighbors across the pond are working to make the pond a less polluted one.