The European Parliament has approved the planned ambitious European Union (EU) directive banning a majority of single-use plastics items across all 28 member states. The law now awaits a final confirmatory vote from the EU Council of Ministers - expected to be a formality given the EU parliament and council struck a deal on its terms in January (2019).
The directive is to ban the sale of across the EU by 2021 of single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks); single-use plastic plates; plastic straws; plastic beverage stirrers; cotton bud sticks whose stems are plastic; and plastic balloon sticks for domestic rather than commercial use. The sale of expanded polystyrene cups and food containers would be banned and so would oxo-degradable plastics, whose additives fragment these materials.
Under the directive, member states would have to ensure 90% of plastic bottles used in their territories by 2029 are collected for recycling. And plastic bottles sold in the EU would have to contain at least 25% of recycled content by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
Other requirements in the final text include that single-use plastic beverage containers of up to three litres (and those for liquid medical foods) must be designed so that caps and lids remain attached to the container when used.
The directive also tells member states to ensure fishing gear and related components suppliers collect waste fishing gear and dispose of it safely, rather than allowing fishermen to dump it at sea.
And the legislation insists that EU governments order certain plastic products contain labels advising consumers to dispose of such items safely after use and avoid littering. This includes cigarettes with plastic filters, plastic cups, wet wipes and sanitary napkins.
The directive also instructs member states to inform and advise consumers to avoid plastics littering in other ways, by promoting reuse systems and sensible waste management options.
This law was proposed last May (2018), so its progress through the EU legislative approval system has been far faster than other such complex EU proposals. It reflects growing political concern over the impact of marine plastics pollution, which has also prompted another EU initiative to restrict the production and use of microplastics.
Belgian liberal MEP Frédérique Ries, who has helped pilot the law through the European Parliament argued that the directive would reduce the cost of environmental damage caused by plastics by EUR22 billion.
“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,” she said.