The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to adopt a ban on various single-use plastics, including forks, spoons, knives, straws, and plates.
The vote represents a major step forward in the global fight to reduce plastic pollution.
The law will go into full effect across the European Union by 2021, but countries will be expected to begin the transition process immediately. The vote also included mandates for EU members to reach 90% plastic bottle collection targets by 2030, and standards for using recycled plastic. New packaging requirements that describe the environmental impact of plastic pollution for products such as wet wipes will also be required going forward.
“This legislation will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22 billion — the estimated cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030,” said Frédérique Ries, a Belgian politician and member of the European Parliament, in a press release.
“Europe now has a legislative model to defend and promote at [an] international level, given the global nature of the issue of marine pollution involving plastics,” she added. “This is essential for the planet.”
The fight against plastic pollution has gone global in recent years as countries recognize the unsustainable nature of plastic production and the growing toll of environmental harm caused by plastic.
More than 8 million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year, which is like emptying a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute. Plastic pollution harms marine life and contaminates food and water supplies of humans.
The collapse of recycling systems over the past year has also spurred action against plastic. Following a law in China banning the import of various types of junk plastic, many countries have been struggling to deal with unprecedented volumes of plastic waste in their own borders. In the US, many municipalities have stopped recycling altogether because it’s become too expensive.
The EU had also become accustomed to shipping its plastic to China and other countries, and the recent prohibitions have caused serious reckonings.
The new law is partly inspired by this development.
Globally, more than 60 countries have taken action against plastic pollution in recent years. Manufacturers, meanwhile, have been investing in plastic alternatives, and everyday citizens are championing zero waste lifestyles.