The European Commission is proposing a ban on single-use plastic items like straws and utensils according to draft rules released this week. The legislation, which needs the approval of all member states and the European Parliament, would also require plastic producers pay for cleanup and waste management, CNN Money reported.
EU-wide rules target 10 single-use plastic products that the commission says make up 70% of marine litter items. The ban will apply to cotton swabs, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, and balloon sticks, meaning those products would need to be made exclusively from more sustainable materials.
“The European Commission estimates that these rules, once fully implemented in 2030, could cost businesses over $3.5 billion per year,” Alanna Petroff wrote. “But they could also save consumers about $7.6 billion per year, create 30,000 jobs, and avoid $25.6 billion in environmental damage and cleanup costs.”
The proposed rules also say:
- Producers will help cover the costs of waste management and cleanup as well as awareness raising measures for food containers, packets and wrappers, drinks containers and cups, tobacco products with filters, wet wipes, balloons, and lightweight plastic bags
- The industry will be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for products
- Certain products like sanitary towels, wet wipes, and balloons will require a clear and standardized labeling showing how waste should be disposed, the negative environmental impact of the product, and the presence of plastics in them
Under the new rules, EU member states must reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups by setting national reduction targets, making alternative products available at the point of sale, or ensuring that single-use plastic products cannot be provided free of charge. Member states will also be required to raise consumer awareness about single-use plastics and collect 90% of single-use plastic drink bottles by 2025.
In January, the European Commission announced plans to make all plastic packaging recyclable by 2030.
Around the same time, a number of European organizations that included Plastics Recyclers Europe and European Plastics Converters committed to recycling 50% of their plastic waste by 2040.
Also this year, Taiwan proposed a strict ban on single-use plastics expected to roll out in three stages by 2030. The news prompted a mixed reaction from the industry. The COO of a biodegradable plastics producer warned that the new ban ignores single-use biodegradable products.
Likewise, members of the plastic industry are criticizing the new EU proposal. PlasticsEurope, a European association representing plastics manufacturers, said there must be more resources dedicated to waste management for better used plastic collection, Petroff reported. “‘Plastic product bans are not the solution,’ it said in a statement, and noted that ‘alternative products may not be more sustainable.’”
The commission’s proposals now head to the European Parliament and Council.