On Wednesday, Parliament approved a new law banning single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws and cotton buds sticks.

According to the European Commission, more than 80% of marine litter is plastics. The products covered by this new law constitute 70% of all marine litter items. Due to its slow rate of decomposition, plastic accumulates in seas, oceans and on beaches in the EU and worldwide. Plastic residue is found in marine species – such as sea turtles, seals, whales and birds, but also in fish and shellfish, and therefore in the human food chain.

560 MEPs voted in favour of the agreement with EU ministers, 35 against and 28 abstained.

The following products will be banned in the EU by 2021:

Single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks)

Single-use plastic plates

Plastic straws

Cotton bud sticks made of plastic

Plastic balloon sticks

Oxo-degradable plastics and food containers and expanded polystyrene cups

New recycling target and more responsibility for producers

Member states will have to achieve a 90% collection target for plastic bottles by 2029, and plastic bottles will have to contain at least 25% of recycled content by 2025 and 30% by 2030.

The agreement also strengthens the application of the polluter pays principle, in particular for tobacco, by introducing extended responsibility for producers. This new regime will also apply to fishing gear, to ensure that manufacturers, and not fishermen, bear the costs of collecting nets lost at sea.

The legislation finally stipulates that labelling on the negative environmental impact of throwing cigarettes with plastic filters in the street should be mandatory, as well as for other products such as plastic cups, wet wipes and sanitary napkins.

“This legislation will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22 billion – 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,” said lead MEP Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE).

EPP: Away with plastic waste!

“We needed to do something to reduce plastic litter in our environment. There is enough plastic waste in our seas to fill an area as big as Central Europe”, said Karl-Heinz Florenz MEP, EPP Group Spokesman, warmly welcoming the vote in the European Parliament.

“Nevertheless, we also have to see a valuable resource in plastic waste. Replacing disposable plastic with innovative alternatives and reusable products would not just be good for the planet but it would also be an economic opportunity”, recalled Florenz, explaining that about 95% of the value of plastic is lost, which amounts to between €70 to €105 billion per year. Europe needs to take this opportunity and lead. We have to be innovative and make new materials available and change the way we produce and consume plastic. Look at take-away coffee cups: currently, they all contain a thin plastic lining. This will change, innovation is on its way. This conduct creates jobs. It enables growth”, said Florenz.

It’s time to end plastic marine pollution to save our oceans, say S&Ds

If we don’t want to have more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050, we must act now, say the Socialists and Democrats. Every year in Europe, 150 000 tonnes of plastic are dumped into the sea and today the EU Parliament voted on a new legislation, agreed with the EU Council, to stop this massive pollution.

“We are proud of the active role of the S&D Group to ensure that the European Union takes a major step forward to save the oceans and to spread awareness on the need to change many of our daily habits. More and more people understand that we cannot continue with this ‘throwaway’ way of life and we must move away from the ‘culture of waste’. We cannot turn our oceans into a gigantic dustbin, killing biodiversity and endangering the source of life for future generations,” stated S&D negotiator, Massimo Paolucci MEP.

“Our Group played a decisive role in increasing the level of ambition of the Directive on a number of points, such as adding products made of oxo-degradable plastic and single-use products made of expanded polystyrene to the list of bans. We also secured that plastic bottles will have to be separately collected with a rate of 90% by 2029, and made of at least 25% recycled content from 2025 for bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and at least 30% for all bottles from 2030,” he added.

ECR: an ambitious new package to cut plastic waste

“More than 80% of the litter found on our beaches consists of plastic. About half of this comes from disposable products. Without action, more plastic than fish will swim in our seas by 2050. We must change course and these ambitious measures are a step in the right direction,” said ECR MEP Mark Demesmaeker, who negotiated these measures on behalf of the Group said:

Another eye-catching new clause is that by 2029, member states will have to collect 90% of the plastic single-use drink bottles.

“This measure will have a major impact. Also towards CO2 reduction. For every tonne of plastic that we recycle, we take a car off the road. Plastic beverage bottles are the most commonly found disposable plastic on our beaches. In addition, the European Parliament was able to convince the Member States that by 2030 all beverage bottles should consist of 30% recycled plastic,” Demesmaeker continued.

There are also incentives in the legislation to encourage tobacco companies to remove the plastic contained in cigarette butts, and introduce new producer responsibility measures which will ensure they contribute towards the clean-up of discarded stubs.

“A plastic cigarette butt does not break and one cigarette can contaminate up to 500 liters of water. Producers of tobacco filters with plastic will have to pay for the clean-up costs and for the necessary public infrastructure to collect these stubs. In addition to the existing health warnings, there will also be an environmental warning on the packaging of tobacco products that contain plastic,” Demesmaeker concluded.

Greens: Our love affair with a waste-based culture must end

The Directive, which was agreed between the three main EU institutions back in December, will see a ban on single-use items such as straws, cutlery and cotton buds, as well as a complete ban on plastic cups and food containers made out of expanded polystyrene, say the European Green Party.

“The EU has finally woken up to the fact that we need to radically change our approach to the production and usage of plastics in our daily lives.  Mountains of plastic trash have for decades degraded our environment and clogged our seas and this Single-Use Plastics Directive might be a first step towards reversing that trend,” said Bas Eickhout, MEP and co-leading candidate at the European Green Party.

“We are tired of hearing empty promises from industry claiming to tackle the problem.  Instead of cutting back on plastic production it has soared year after year.  This move will result in the banning of single-use plates, cutlery, stirrers and other items that often end up littering our shorelines. We need to be frank with ourselves that our love affair with a waste-based culture must end.  If human beings hope to avoid going the way of the single-use coffee cup, we’ll have to act creatively and industriously to come up with new circular models that can help us to live sustainably and in harmony with our environment,” concluded Eickhout.