The European Union announced on Sunday that it’s seeking a ban on various types of plastic, including plastic straws, cutlery, plates, cotton buds, and balloon sticks, according to PBS.
The proposal also seeks to sharply reduce the production of items for which there are no easy alternatives, such as fishing gear, cigarette butts, beverage containers, food containers, lightweight plastic bags, and wet wipes.
Under the proposed bill, manufacturers would be forced to develop sustainable packaging and better mechanisms for recycling and cleaning up plastic waste. By 2025, 90% of single-use plastic bottles would have to be recycled.
“The only way to stop plastics pouring into our oceans is to turn off the flow at its source: production,” said Lasse Gustavsson, the European executive director of the environmental group Oceana, at an event supporting the announcement, PBS reports.
EU Vice President Frans Timmermans said that the new plan was motivated by the growing problem of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, and he challenged other governments to fight the problem.
“Worldwide this is the most ambitious and comprehensive legal proposal addressing marine litter,” Timmermans told reporters, according to the Guardian. “We can lead the way. We have to lead the way for our environment, for our health, but also to turn this into a competitive advantage for Europe.”
The European Commission estimates that by 2030 the plan could cost businesses over $3.5 billion (€3 billion) per year, while saving consumers about $7.6 billion (€6.5 billion) per year. The plan would also create 30,000 jobs, and prevent $25.6 billion (€22 billion) in environmental damage.
It could take three or four years for the rule to pass, because it needs the approval of all 28 members states, according to CNN.
Critics point out that the proposal does not have specific targets for countries, which could lead to inconsistent implementation across the political bloc, CNN notes.
In the meantime, countries throughout the EU could enact their own proposals.
The United Kingdom, for instance, has already announced plans to ban various single-use plastics.
The EU-wide ban, however, goes further, a point that Timmermans made in his announcement.
“What I hope for after today is a race to the top, and I invite all those who said the EU is too slow – whether they are Michael Gove or others – to join us in this race to the top. Lets see who does best at this,” he said.
Gove is the UK’s environment secretary.
This growing movement has gained momentum through increased awareness of the environmental harms of plastic.
Each year, more than 8 million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans, which is like emptying a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute. Plastic has been shown to harm marine animals and contaminate human food and water supplies.
Single-use plastic items have become the primary enforcement target because they’re produced at such large volumes. More than 500 million plastic straws are used in the US each day, for example.
They’re also easily replaced with sustainable alternatives.
Read More: 7 Ways to Cut Junk Plastic From Your Life
Global Citizen campaigns to eliminate single-use plastic production and you can take action on this issue here.