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26 June 2019
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The EU plans were adopted this week © Shutterstock

25 October 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal

Single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks or cotton buds, will be banned in the EU under plans adopted on Wednesday.


These products, which make up over 70 per cent of marine litter, will be banned from the EU market from 2021, under draft plans approved by Parliament.


MEPs added to this list of plastics banned from the EU market from 2021: 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 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent by 2025 and 80 per cent 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.


Member states should also guarantee that at least 50 per cent of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic is collected each year, with a recycling target of at least 15 per cent by 2025. Fishing gear represents 27 per cent of waste found on Europe’s beaches. Governments would have to ensure that tobacco companies cover the costs of waste collection for those products, including transport, treatment and litter collection. The same goes for producers of fishing gear containing plastic, who will need to contribute to meeting the recycling target.


But Bill Wirtz, policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, says this approval is bad news for European consumers.


Wirtz said: “Ninety per cent 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 per cent did not investigate the evidence of whether alternative products are actually better on an environmental level.”