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EU Parliament backs proposal to ban single-use plastics from 2021

October 25, 2018
Energy & Chemical Value Chain

The European Parliament on Wednesday voted to ban single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks, or cotton buds. It says these products make up over 70% of marine litter and will be banned from the EU market from 2021. The European Commission announced the ban earlier in a proposed directive and the parliament approved it with amendments today.

Members of the parliament (MEPs) added to the commission’s list of plastics to be banned from the EU market from 2021 products made of oxo-degradable plastics such as bags or packaging and fast-food containers made of expandable polystyrene (EPS). The consumption of several other items, for which no alternative exists, will have to be reduced by EU member states by least 25% by 2025. This includes single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes, or food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts, or ice creams. Member states will draft national plans to encourage the use of products suitable for multiple use, as well as re-use and recycling. Other plastics, such as beverage bottles, will have to be collected separately and recycled at a rate of 90% by 2025.

MEPs agreed that reduction measures should also cover waste from tobacco products, in particular cigarette filters containing plastic. It would have to be reduced by 50% before 2025 and 80% by 2030. One cigarette butt can pollute 500-1,000 liters of water, and thrown on the roadway, it can take up to 12 years to disintegrate. They are the second most littered single-use plastic items, the parliament says.

Member states should also ensure that at least 50% of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic is collected every year, with a recycling target of at least 15% by 2025. Fishing gear represents 27% of waste found on Europe’s beaches. Member states would have to ensure that tobacco companies cover the costs of waste collection for those products, including transport, treatment, and litter collection. The same goes for producers of fishing gear containing plastic, which will need to contribute to meeting the recycling target, under the draft plans.

Frédérique Ries, the parliament official who drafted the report, says, “We have adopted the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics. It is up to us now to stay the course in the upcoming negotiations with the [European] Council, due to start as early as November. Today’s vote paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive. It is essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe, estimated at €22 billion by 2030.”

The report was adopted with 571 votes to 53 and 34 abstentions. Parliament will enter into negotiations with the European Council, which is made up of ministers from EU countries, which will have set their own position on the proposals.

Europe’s plastics industry has criticized the planned measures. Industry association PlasticsEurope (Brussels, Belgium) calls them “ambiguous” and “disproportionate.” It says bans are not the solution. “They will discourage investments that are crucial to further develop technologies and infrastructure to recycle plastics,” PlasticsEurope says. “The root causes of marine litter are improper waste management, a lack of awareness, and littering behavior: these are independent of material type.”

PlasticsEurope says the speed of the EU process has not allowed enough time for a complete life-cycle assessment of alternatives. It also takes issue with the parliament singling out specific polymers such as EPS, which it says is discriminatory.

By Natasha Alperowicz

Source: Chemical Week

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