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Members of the European Parliament have voted in favour of a ban on ‘single-use’ plastic items.

The ban, which will come into effect from 2021, includes items such as plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks or cotton buds.

It will also include a ban on products made of oxo-degradable plastics, such as bags or packaging, and fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene in the EU market.

National reduction targets for other non-banned plastics

The consumption of several other items, “for which no alternative exists”, must be reduced by member states by least 25 per cent by 2025, it was announced.

It says this includes single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes or food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams.

The Parliament says member states will draft national plans to encourage the use of products suitable for multiple use, as well as re-using and recycling.

Other plastics, such as beverage bottles, will have to be collected separately and recycled at a rate of 90 per cent by 2025.

Cigarette butts and lost fishing gear

MEPs agreed that reduction measures should also cover waste from tobacco products, in particular cigarette filters containing plastic. This would have to be reduced by 50 per cent by 2025 and 80 per cent by 2030.

Member states will also have to ensure that at least 50 per cent of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic is collected per year, with a recycling target of at least 15 per cent by 2025.

It was announced that member states must ensure that tobacco companies cover the costs of waste collection for these products, including transport, treatment and litter collection. The same goes for producers of fishing gear containing plastic, who will need to contribute to meeting the recycling target.

Frédérique Ries, rapporteur, said the adoption of the measures represented “the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics.” He added that the vote “paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive” he said is essential to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe.

“Bad news” for consumers

Responding to the news, Bill Wirtz, Policy Analyst for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) says the approval is bad news for European consumers.

“90 per cent of the Parliament just voted to ban a vast array of single-use plastic items, including oxodegradable plastics, and takeaway boxes and cups made of styrofoam, as well as straws, coffee stirrers balloon sticks and ear buds made of plastics. I’m fairly positive that those 90 per cent did not investigate the evidence of whether alternative products are actually better on an environmental level,” Wirtz said.

“Studies have shown that the unintended consequences of plastic bans can often be worse for the environment. Take the example of single-use plastic bags: cotton bags might appear more environmentally friendly, but if their re-use rates are too low – which they are, provenly, on average – then we actually end up using more resources,” he continued.

“As for littering: the Parliament should find better measures to prevent littering from happening in the first place, instead of continuously outlawing items that are useful to consumers. With high littering fines, we should make perpetrators of this pollution pay for the damages caused.

“It should be up to consumers to decide what products they use. If you believe that plastic isn’t fantastic, that’s fine, but going on an uninformed craze against anything made out of plastic is neither rational nor productive.” Wirtz concluded.

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