In a vote Wednesday, the European Union (EU) sealed the deal on a new law banning throwaway plastic by 2021 citing concerns over plastic pollution suffocating the planet.
The motion passed with a large margin of 560 votes to 35 with 28 abstentions.
The ban includes eliminating the use of single-use plastic cutlery, plates, straws, cotton bud sticks, balloon sticks, as well as oxo-degradable plastics, food containers, and polystyrene cups in the next two years. Additionally, the legislation sets a 90 percent collection target for plastic bottles by 2029 with future plastic bottles being required to contain at least 25 percent recycled content by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030.
Member states will also be subject to more stringent standards of the “polluter pays” principle requiring those who produce pollution, particularly tobacco products and fishing gear, to bear the cost of managing plastic waste and preventing damage to human health and the environment.
“This legislation will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22 billion [$24.7 billion] – the estimated cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030,” said lead MEP Frédérique Ries in a statement. “Europe now has a legislative model to defend and promote at [an] international level, given the global nature of the issue of marine pollution involving plastics. This is essential for the planet.”
Lastly, new labeling requirements set forth will be geared toward educating consumers about the impact of tossing single-use plastics like plastic cigarette filters, cups, wet wipes, and sanitary napkins.
The European Commission first put forward the proposal last year after findings suggested global plastic production has increased 20-fold since the 1960s and is expected to double by 2036, disproportionately impacting marine life around the world. According to the European Commission, more than 80 percent of marine litter is plastics. The 10 most targeted single-use plastics are those that are most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas and, when paired with lost fishing gear, constitute 70 percent of all litter items found in oceans.
Plastics waste can take as long as 1,000 years to decompose. As such, it’s been found in nearly every corner of the world, from the remotest reaches of the Arctic Ocean to the deepest depths of the world's seas. Marine species like sea turtles, whales, and birds fatally mistake plastic waste for food. In fact, every single seal, dolphin, and whale in one study was found to have ingested plastic. Plastic is so pervasive that it’s been found to make its way up the food chain with estimates suggesting we could be eating more than 100 pieces of plastic in every meal.