Europe welcomes new laws to slash single-use plastic items

A newly agreed ban on several single-use plastic items could soon become “one of the EU’s proudest achievements”, according to NGOs.

EU governments have finally reached an agreement to slash plastic pollution from single-use items after months of negotiations with the European Commission and Parliament.

The final measures, which were first put forward by the European Commission in May, include:

  • Bans on several single-use plastic items including plates, straws, beverage stirrers, cutlery, expanded polystyrene food containers and more;
  • Ensuring manufacturers pay for waste management and clean-up of several single-use plastic items, including cigarette butts and fishing gear;
  • Ensuring all beverage bottles are produced from 25% recycled content by 2025.

The EU also agreed to introduce labels informing consumers about the presence of plastics in products and about the environmental impact of littering.

Meadhbh Bolger of Friends of the Earth said:

The EU deserves praise for being the first region to introduce new laws to reduce single-use plastics and slash plastic pollution in our fields, rivers and oceans.”

What’s less laudable is that the plastics lobby – backed up by some governments – was able to delay and weaken the ambition,” she added.

Campaigners complained about the lack of binding targets to reduce the consumption of food containers and cups. They also regretted that collection targets for beverage containers were delayed by 4 years, and that the companies will still be able to rely on voluntary agreements to reduce the consumption of plastic items.

leaked letter recently exposed how major plastic polluters such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Danone have been lobbying national environment ministers to water down Europe’s strategy to counter the plastic pollution crisis.

Coca-Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo have also recently been listed as responsible for the most plastic pollution in the world, according to a global analysis of 239 clean-ups and brand audits in 42 countries on six continents.

But popular support for the agreed laws has grown across Europe. Three in four Europeans agree that they are worried about the impact on their heath of plastics, a Eurobarometer survey found last year.

If we don’t stop the plastic pollution crisis now, we’ll regret it forever,” said Jean-Pierre Schweitzer of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

“Today’s decision could soon become one of Europe’s proudest achievements, but national governments must introduce these laws swiftly,” he added.

EU governments will have two years to transpose the agreement into national laws, which should come into force by the beginning of 2021.

A race to the top?

The news came only one day after the decision by the UK to make retailers and producers of packaging pay for the full cost of collection and recycling.

The UK is due to leave the EU block in March 2019, but whether the government will decide to retain EU environmental laws will depend on the final agreement with the EU.

The UK, just like many other countries, has also been discussing whether to ban certain single-use plastic items.

Political commentators have hinted at a potential ‘race to the top’ among member states and the European Commission itself. Enjoy this Twitter thread, courtesy of UK environment minister Michael Gove and European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans: