Several million kilometers of ocean and lake waters cover the European continent. Litter, plastics, in particular, are gathering in the bodies of water, which increases each day as citizens continue to use plastic products.
With the increasing amount of harmful plastics in the ocean, the European Commission proposed a new set of ambitious rules to target the plastic litters most often found on European coasts and beaches.
The plastic litters, together, constitute 70 percent of all marine litter items with straws, cotton swabs, disposable cutlery and fishing gear commonly found on beaches. The European Commission urges to lead the way in reducing marine litter worldwide. The new measures need to be approved by the European Union’s 28 member states, which will be applied to different products.
The proposal will impose different kinds of measures for different products. While single-use plastic products will be banned from the market, readily-available and affordable alternatives will be provided. Plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons will be required to be made of “sustainable materials” instead.
For products without straight-forward alternatives, the measures will limit their use through a national reduction in consumption. Producers will assist cover the costs of waste management and raise awareness on the threats of plastic waste. Furthermore, specific products will require clear and standardized labeling that will indicate how waste should be properly disposed of.
Deposit-refund schemes will be encouraged, with member states obliged to collect 90 percent of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025. Member states will also be required to help raise awareness of consumers about the negative impact of plastic waste as well as fishing gear, which accounts for 27 percent of all beach litter.
Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said in a press release that Europeans need to act together to tackle the big issue of plastic waste because it “ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food.” He noted that the measures will ban specific single-use plastic products, and substitute them with unharmful alternatives so consumers can still use their favorite products.
“This is an opportunity for Europe to lead the way, creating products that the world will demand for decades to come, and extract more economic value from our precious and limited resources,” Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness said.