The European Union (EU) wants to take its war on plastic to the next stage: the European Commission has recently proposed a total ban on almost all single-use plastic products in a bid to reduce Europe's carbon emissions and marine litter.
Plastic is a massive problem -- sure, it was amazing when it was first developed (and it still is), but there's just too much of it, and we're clearly not using and recycling it responsibly. Recent studies have found that plastics are ubiquitous in the world's oceans, slowly killing marine wildlife. There are an estimated 5 trillion plastic pieces in the oceans and a truck's worth of plastic is dumped into the oceans every minute. This is clearly not sustainable and has to change as soon as possible. Some countries have already implemented laudable recycling systems, but that can only accomplish so much. At the end of the day, there's no going around it: we need to reduce our plastic consumption, and we need to do it quickly.
A good place to start is single-use plastic. We don't really need it, we can't really recycle it, and by definition, it's short-lived. The European Commission has recently proposed a total ban on some single-use plastic products: plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons. They also want to drastically reduce the use of plastic food containers and drink cups by implementing a mandatory tax on them.
“Plastic can be fantastic but we need to use it more responsibly,” Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen said in a statement. “Today’s proposals will help business and consumers to move towards sustainable alternatives.”
Under the Commission's proposal, all the member states (representing over 500 million people) will have to collect 90% of single-use plastic drink bottles by 2025, while producers will also have to chip in by paying some of the waste disposal costs. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said:
"Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food. Today's proposals will reduce single-use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures. We will ban some of these items, and substitute them with cleaner alternatives so people can still use their favorite products."
The EU says that implementing these measures as soon as possible will also yield economic benefits. The entire world is moving in this direction, though some are moving slower than others, so having an early bird approach could offer a competitive advantage. This will also offer incentives to develop innovative, sustainable recycling or waste management solutions.
This is just a proposal for now. It remains to be seen whether it will be implemented or not, but it's certainly a big step in the right direction.