European Union Bans Single-Use Plastic

March 28, 2019, 5:46 PM UTC

European Union legislators have voted to ban single-use plastic used by consumers, in an effort to curb ocean pollution.

The 10 products affected include plates, balloon sticks, food and beverage containers, cutlery, straws, and stirrers. The legislation, approved Wednesday, will take effect in 2021, CNN reports.

The legislation was introduced after the European Commission found that 85% of marine litter is plastic. Plastic has been found in species such as fish, turtles, and shellfish, and by extension also has ended up in food consumed by people.

In addition to the single-use plastic ban, member states of the European Parliament will be required by 2029 to collect and recycle at least 90% of beverage bottles. Tobacco companies will also play a role, covering the cost of collecting littered cigarette butts, which are the second most littered single-use plastic items, according to Al Jazeera.

The “polluter pays” model will be applied to other producers of products such as plastic cups, sanitary towels, and wet wipes, which will all be required to explain to consumers how to properly dispose of each item. Packaging will also include warnings about the environmental impacts of such products. The effort will place more responsibility on producers of pollutive plastics, instead of placing blame solely on consumers.

The anti-plastic-pollution measure passed by a large majority, with 560 Members of the European Parliament in favor, 35 against, and 28 abstaining.

Curbing plastic pollution could avoid nearly $25 billion-worth of environmental damages by 2030, according to TIME.

“Today, we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas,” said the European Commission’s vice-president Frans Timmermans said in a statement. “Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world.”