by Giacomo Grison
Single-use plastic items may soon be outlawed in Europe after the European Commission proposed a plastic ban in a bid to reduce marine pollution.
The plan, which needs approval from the European Parliament as well as the 28 EU member states, aims to replace popular plastic products with more environmentally friendly materials, such as bioplastics.
The EU earmarked £310m for technological research in plastic recycling and ecologically sustainable alternatives earlier this year.
Among the items targeted by the ban figure straws, plates, cutlery, cotton bugs and drink stirrers, which make up almost 70 per cent of the total plastic litter polluting European waters and beaches.
“Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem. Plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans and in our food,” said the vice president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans.
“Today’s proposals will reduce single-use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures. We will ban some of these items, and substitute them with cleaner alternatives so people will still be able to use their favourite products,” he added.
According to EU estimates, the ban would prevent 3.4 tonnes of carbon emissions, as well as avoiding environmental damages for an equivalent of 22 billion euro by 2030.
Concerns have been raised over the new proposal.
EuroCommerce group, which represents European companies in the retail, wholesale and international trade sector, announced in a statement that the burden of such measure “needs to be shared among all stakeholders, from producers to consumers.”
“Extended producer responsibility must not mean supermarkets ending up as waste collectors,” commented EuroCommerce director-general Christian Verschueren.
“Other players, including many industries and governments, have to step up to the plate as well,” he said.
The initiative by the European Commission came one week ahead of the World Environment Day, organised every year by the United Nations Environment Programme.
This year’s edition is hosted by India on 5 June and focuses on the fight against plastic pollution. UN figures estimate that 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year.
A study from Plymouth University found that plastic pollution affects at least 700 marine species, including whales, dolphins and sea turtles.