The European Parliament has agreed on ambitious measures proposed by the European Commission to tackle marine litter coming from the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on European beaches, as well as abandoned fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics.
Announced on 27 March 2019, the new rules on single-use plastics and fishing gear are part of the EU Plastics Strategy, which includes a target to have all plastic packaging placed on the EU market be reusable or recyclable by 2030. That in turn is an important component of the European Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan.
The new Single-Use Plastics Directive tackles marine litter directly through the following set of measures:
- A ban on selected single-use products made of plastic for which alternatives exist on the market: cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for balloons, as well as cups, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene and on all products made of oxo-degradable plastic.
- Measures to reduce consumption of food containers and beverage cups made of plastic and specific marking and labelling of certain products.
- Extended Producer Responsibility schemes covering the cost to clean-up litter, applied to products such as tobacco filters and fishing gear.
- A 90 per cent separate collection target for plastic bottles by 2029 (77 per cent by 2025) and the introduction of design requirements to connect caps to bottles, as well as target to incorporate 25 per cent of recycled plastic in PET bottles as from 2025 and 30 per cent in all plastic bottles as from 2030.
Commenting on the announcement, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for sustainable development, said: “Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas. We got this, we can do this. Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world.”
Commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, Karmenu Vella, added: “We should all be very proud of these new rules because they tackle marine plastic pollution at its source – one of the most called for and supported EU initiatives among European citizens. After the favourable vote by the Parliament today, our main task will be to ensure that these ambitious measures are quickly implemented in practice, which will be common work for public authorities, producers and consumers alike.”