Macro of a couple of white straws with diagonal red and blue stripes against a soft blurred background.

The last straw: Europe sets to reduce single-use plastics

The European Commission has proposed unprecedented laws to counter throwaway culture.

EU officials have formally requested a ban on single-use plastic straws, cutlery and plates, cotton buds and balloon sticks.

The news confirms what was already revealed in a leaked document earlier this month, and it comes as part of a wider EU strategy to curb plastic pollution in the ocean and on beaches.

The Commission has also proposed a target of 90% separate collection of plastic bottles by 2025.

Other proposals mention plans to make producers pay for the cost of cleaning up and recycling of items that are commonly found in the environment, and labels informing citizens of the negative impact of inappropriate disposal. Items include, among others, food packaging, disposable bottles and cups, plastic bags, fishing gear, wet wipes and cigarette butts.

Speaking on behalf of Rethink Plastic, Stephane Arditi of the European Environmental Bureau said:

“Today’s proposal by the European Commission signals an important step forward in the race to reduce plastic pollution. There is no reason why we shouldn’t ban unnecessary single-use plastic items when durable and toxic free alternatives already exist.”


However, the Commission could have shown more ambition, Rethink Plastic campaigners said.

The group denounced the lack of specific reduction targets for food containers and beverage cups. “This could result in countries claiming they are taking the necessary steps as long as any reduction is achieved, regardless of how small,” they said in a statement.

The draft also fails to address the presence of hazardous substances used in single-use plastic products, which can easily leak into the environment and in our food chain. Elise Vitali, a chemicals expert at the EEB, said:

“Our daily exposure to toxic chemicals used in food packaging and bottles can lead to chronic diseases. A comprehensive strategy must tackle the effects of these single-use plastics on people’s health.”

The European Parliament and the Council of EU ministers will discuss and amend the legislative proposal in the coming months.

In the meantime, the  Commission has sent a clear message to all governments that the economic and environmental benefits cannot be dismissed. According to their own research, the proposed laws will help avoid the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent and save consumers a projected €6.5 billion.

All in all, they can help avoid environmental damages which would cost the equivalent of €22 billion by 2030.

The ball in the Parliament’s court.