European Parliament Approves Historic Ban on Single-Use Plastics
The rules have the potential to be the most ambitious ban on plastics in the world.
The European Parliament voted 571-53 on Wednesday to approve measures for banning various single-use plastics in an effort to protect the world’s oceans from pollution, according to the BBC.
The 28-nation bloc targeted common forms of single-use plastic, such as cutlery, food containers, straws, and fishing gear.
The vote called for an increase in recycling rates throughout the European Union and said that industries will be forced to reduce the amount of plastic in their products. For example, 90% of plastic bottles would have to be collected and recycled under the new proposal, and cigarette makers would be forced to use 80% less plastic in filters by 2030.
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The parliament voted on these restrictions largely because of growing public pressure to stop plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, according to the BBC. Each year, more than 8 million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans, and there are an estimated 50 trillion microplastics in marine environments.
This plastic waste harms more than 700 animals, including whales, krill, turtles, and coral.
The overwhelming outcome of the vote now gives the parliament leverage in its negotiations with member states as it develops the final details of the measures, which are expected to be enacted in 2021, according to Deutsche Welle.
If implemented, the rules will be the most ambitious ban on plastics in the world.
“Worldwide, this is the most ambitious and comprehensive legal proposal addressing marine litter,” EU Vice President Frans Timmermans, told reporters when the proposal was first announced earlier this year, 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 the plan could cost businesses more than $3.5 billion per year, while saving consumers about $7.6 billion per year — creating 30,000 jobs and preventing $25.6 billion in environmental damage.
Globally, more than 60 countries have taken action to curb plastic pollution and the United Nations is working to enact global rules for plastic production and management.
This momentum could help reverse the prediction that plastic production will increase by 40% over the next decade.
“What I hope for after today is a race to the top,” Timmermans said earlier in the year, “and I invite all those who said the EU is too slow ... to join us in this race to the top. Let's see who does best at this.”