Let’s face it: we are drowning in plastic! Even sea salt is full of plastic nowadays. The European Union is actively trying to change this by making every piece of packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030.
The new plastic waste management strategy proposed by the EU underscores how much the world needs a change in mentality. Consumerism has reached alarming levels in the past few years. In today’s world, it’s so easy to pack all our groceries in single-use plastic bags and few bat an eye at the numerous warnings issued by environmentalists.
The discomfort of carrying a few shopping items to the gasoline-powered car parked nearby is soothed by this magical invention: the plastic bag (a true environmental nemesis, if the planet ever had one).
Yet people still lack the ability to see plastic bags as foes. Their cute, striped, existence underneath the cashier’s desk doesn’t seem to bother us at all. Even more, people weigh fruit at the supermarket in small transparent plastic bags, then put those bags inside bigger plastic bags. It seems like we’re quite attached to this tiny, man-made environmental threat.
After China had announced that it will ban imports of foreign recyclable material, the EU had to implement a change, especially considering the tons of plastic it used to send to Asia for burning or recycling.
Vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, said Brussels’ priority was to reduce “single-use plastics that take five seconds to produce. You use it for five minutes and it takes 500 years to break down again.”
Cutting down on items such as drinking straws; “lively colored” bottles; coffee cups; lids and stirrers; cutlery and takeaway packaging has now become a priority for the EU leaders.
“If we don’t do anything about this, 50 years down the road we will have more plastic than fish in the oceans … we have all seen the images, whether you watch [the BBC’s] Blue Planet, whether you watch the beaches in Asian countries after storms,” Timmermans told The Guardian.
“If children knew what the effects are of using single-use plastic straws for drinking sodas, or whatever, they might reconsider and use paper straws or no straws at all” he added.
Timmermans believes that if the authorities explain the environmental benefits of eliminating straws or buying different colored plastic bottles, EU citizens will soon change their shopping habits.
Günther Oettinger, an EU budget commissioner, suggested that a levy on plastics could be a smart way in which Brussels could make up for the financial losses caused by Brexit.
Some of the goals the EU aims to complete by 2030:
- to recycle 55% of all plastic;
- to reduce the use of bags per person from 90 a year to 40;
- to put member states under the obligation to monitor and reduce their marine litter.
At the same time, the EU will offer £310m to researchers that work on innovative designs meant to increase plastic recyclability and durability.
Let’s hope these goals will be achieved by 2030 so that we don’t live to see a documentary narrated by the next David Attenborough in which revolting plastic bags are choking humans to death for world domination.