The European Commission (EC) proposed new rules aiming to reduce plastic waste in seas and oceans and on their shores on Monday (May 28, 2018).
More than 80% of marine litter is plastics. The EC is proposing new EU-wide rules that target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. These products are the biggest part of the problem. Together they constitute 70% of all marine litter items, the EC says.
Targeted products include plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons.
– Where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market – the EC says.
Member States will have to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups. They can do so by setting national reduction targets, making alternative products available at the point of sale, or ensuring that single-use plastic products cannot be provided free of charge.
It is also proposed for producers to help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness raising measures for food containers, packets and wrappers, drinks containers and cups, tobacco products with filters, wet wipes, balloons, and lightweight plastic bags. The industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products.
Certain products will require a clear and standardized labeling which indicates how waste should be disposed, the negative environmental impact of the product, and the presence of plastics in the products.
The EC says in its press release that, due to its slow decomposition, plastic accumulates in seas, oceans and on beaches in the EU and worldwide. Plastic residues are found in marine species – such as sea turtles, seals, whales and birds, but also in fish and shellfish, and therefore in the human food chain.
– While plastics are a convenient, adaptable, useful and economically valuable material, they need to be better used, re-used and recycled. When littered, the economic impact of plastics encompasses not just the lost economic value in the material, but also the costs of cleaning up and losses for tourism, fisheries and shipping – the EC says.
The Single Use Plastics Directive is an integral part of the wider approach announced in the Plastics Strategy and an important element of the Circular Economy Action Plan. The EC announces that, between now and 2020, an additional EUR 100 million will be devoted to financing priority actions under this Strategy.
The press release adds that replacing the most common single use plastic items with innovative alternatives that have higher added-value is an economic opportunity, as it can create around 30,000 local jobs.
Implementation of this proposal will aim to reduce littering by more than half for the ten single use plastic items, avoiding environmental damage which would otherwise cost EUR 223 billion by 2030.
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