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Europe votes to ban single-use plastics by 2021

A ban on single-use plastic products such as cutlery, plates, straws and cotton buds by 2021 has been voted through the European Parliament.

MEPs voted overwhelmingly for the proposal on Wednesday with 560 voting in favour, 35 against and 28 abstaining. The ban also includes plastic balloon sticks, expanded polystyrene cups and oxo-degradable plastics and food containers.

The move has been criticised by some within the European plastics industry.

As well as implementing the ban, member states will need to meet a 90% collection target for plastic bottles by 2029, and plastic bottles will need to contain 25% recycled content by 2025 and 30% by 2030.

Concerns around marine plastics pollution has been driving this legislation. The European Commission has found that more than 80% of marine rubbish is plastics, and products covered by the ban comprise 70% of all marine litter items.

The ’polluter pays’ principle has been strengthened, which will also apply to fishing gear so that manufacturers and not fishermen bear the costs of collecting nets lost at sea.

Labelling on the negative environmental impact of littering has become mandatory on packs of cigarettes with plastic filters and other goods such as plastic cups, wet wipes and sanitary towels.

Lead MEP Frédérique Ries, from the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Belgium, said: “This legislation will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22bn (£18.9bn) – the estimated cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030.

“Europe now has a legislative model to defend and promote at international level, given the global nature of the issue of marine pollution involving plastics. This is essential for the planet.”

The new law was first agreed during trilogue negotiations between Parliament and Council before Christmas last year. It was then approved by the Environment Committee in January. For the legislation to pass into EU law it must now be approved by the council of ministers.

But the European Plastics Converters group has been critical of the move, while acknowledging the need for a clean environment and seas.

Managing director Alexandre Dangis said: “We regret the adoption of such a regulatory act, discriminating [against] a material that has a crucial role in solving the current challenges for society globally in the decades to come.

“This vote will have a direct negative environmental impact and thousands of job losses all over Europe. It furthermore dictates countries and people how to live and change consumption habits without focusing on what’s key: namely education and anti-littering behaviour. Littering will continue but with other products.

“Regrettably, no proper impact assessment or life cycle assessment have been done within the extraordinary short timeframe as EU politicians carried on the wave of fighting for so-called good cause.”

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