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European Parliament takes plastic action

April 4, 2019

The body has approved legislation designed to tackle the scourge of single-use plastic.

According to LetsRecycle, the legislation paves the way for a collection target of 90 percent for plastic bottles by 2029, as well as a total ban on a wide range of other single-use plastic items within the next two years.

The proposals were passed almost unanimously by MEPs, with 560 in favour to just 35 against. Among the single-use items banned are plastic cutlery, drinking straws, cotton buds, food containers, and expanded polystyrene cups. The legislation also aims for a 25 percent minimum of recycled content in plastic bottles by the year 2025, rising to 30 percent by 2030.

“This legislation will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22 billion ($24.7 billion) – the estimated cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030,” said Belgian 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.”

EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, added: “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.”

The new agreement also “strengthens the application of the polluter pays principle,” the European Parliament explained, with a strong focus on extended responsibility for tobacco producers, regarding cigarette butts, as well as fishing equipment, to ensure that it is manufacturers that bear the costs of collecting nets lost at sea, not the fishing industry itself.

The Council of Ministers will now finalise the formal adoption of the legislation, with LetsRecycle reports that “depending on the final date for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the new rules could apply to the UK as well.”

This possibility comes despite the British Government’s own proposals for tackling plastic waste, including its own previously-announced ban on single-use straws, stirrers and cotton buds which is due to be rolled out from October 2019 onwards.

The European Parliament’s new proposals haven’t received universal acclaim, with IK, the German Association for Plastics Packaging and Films, calling them “rushed-through,” and providing “only little potential for a sustainable solution to environmental problems,” according to K-Zeitung.

“The discussions on plastics are currently emotionally charged and it is not unusual to overlook the fact that we have different challenges to master worldwide,” said IK. “We can tackle the problem of marine litter only on a worldwide basis and locally, whereas in Europe we have to deal with the end of landfills and in Germany, for example, with a further improvement in recycling.”

“Our consumption does not automatically become more sustainable if we do without plastic packaging,” the association continued. “And here lies the great danger in the current populist-driven discussion, which gets a further boost through the directive. Because climate protection is more than plastic bans.”

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