Plastic pollution laws hang in the balance as campaigners warn don’t let polluters off the hook

A three-metre tall dragon spewing single-use plastic items appeared this week in front of the Council of the European Union in Brussels, where EU governments are gathering to decide on draft laws to end the plastic pollution crisis.

The stunt was organised by the Rethink Plastic alliance, a coalition of leading European NGOs that has been putting pressure on policy makers to fight plastic pollution.

All the single-use plastic items used in the stunt were collected in beach clean-ups, campaigners said.

Laws to ban some of these items, including straws and cutlery, are currently being revised in three-way negotiations between the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU governments.

The three institutions met in Brussels this week, and they could reach an agreement on December 18 when they’ll meet again to discuss the proposals one last time.

The Commission, which originally drafted the proposals, and the Parliament are expected to push for the adoption of the laws.

Speaking at a press conference this week, the Commission’s vice president Frans Timmermans said:

“The fight against plastic pollution is one that we can win. The EU plastics laws initiated by the Commission and endorsed by the Parliament are a first step towards a future where plastic doesn’t poison us. If we commit to this together, nobody loses, everybody wins.

MEP Frédérique Ries is speaking at a conference in Brussels alongside the European Commission’s Frans Timmermans and Rethink Plastic coordinator Delphine Lévi Alvarès.

While campaigners believe national governments will support the ban, they fear that they are plotting to weaken other key proposals. These include key requirements that would oblige producers to cover costs for the clean-up of litter and management of plastic waste.

EU countries may attempt to delay the implementation of such schemes by four years and seek exemptions to avoid paying for the recycling and clean-up costs of items like tobacco filters and fishing gear, Rethink Plastic said.

“Consumption of throwaway plastic needs to be cut drastically, and the companies making money on the back of this pollution must also be held responsible. If governments don’t ensure the polluter pays, they side with the dragon,” said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European Coordinator of Break Free From Plastic, on behalf of Rethink Plastic.

Frédérique Ries, who represents the European Parliament in the negotiations on the single-use plastics law, also shared similar views. She said:

“This is the perfect slot in our history to impulse the virtuous change demanded by citizens. Disappointing them would be tragic.