The European Union has launched an ambitious campaign against single-use plastic, in an urgent plan to rid the continent of the flood of damaging plastics that are now choking the rivers, oceans, and countryside.
The EU announced that all plastic packaging in Europe will be reusable or recyclable by 2030, and that single-use plastic, used for the likes of disposable coffee cups, will be completely phased out. In addition, it's freeing up funding for research to explore innovative new plastics and designs.
The EU commission is expected to make legally binding commitments by parliament and its member states by May this year.
The plan follows on from China’s announcement at the beginning of the year that they will cease accepting imports of foreign waste products that are to be recycled. The move left many Western nations, including the UK, on something of the back foot with growing fears that plastic waste that would normally be exported to be recycled will simply build up and eventually be buried in landfill, as the countries don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it.
There are a number of different ways in which the EU hopes to tackle the problem.
One of the major parts of the strategy will be looking into how to tax the use of single-use plastics. “Let’s study this,” the vice-president of the EU commission, Frans Timmermans, told press. “In a perfect world the revenues of this tax will decrease very rapidly, we have to check in an impact assessment whether this is a sustainable form of income also for the EU’s finances. I think there is a lot of support out there.”
The EU will also provide a €100 million fund for research looking into better designs, recyclability, and durability of plastic products, as well as promote the access to clean drinking water on the streets of cities and towns, which they hope that this will help cut the use of bottled water. They will also move to ban the production and use of microbeads in cosmetic products across the entire continent.
The plan released so far is fairly light on details as to how all of this will be achieved, but the politicians are adamant that this is a subject matter that the EU is taking very seriously. In total, it is thought that Europe produces around 25 million tonnes (27.5 million tons) of plastic waste, of which only around 30 percent is sent for recycling.
It is far from perfect, but it shows that the tide on plastics is turning, and that governments, politicians, and industry are finally waking up to the huge environmental catastrophe we are creating for ourselves and the planet’s wildlife.