In a bid to reduce plastic pollution that has wreaked havoc on the world’s seas and oceans, European lawmakers have voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across EU nations.
According to a report by the Independent, the parliament has approved the call for a complete ban on products which are estimated to make up over 70 percent of marine litter. These include plastic plates, cutlery, straws, and cotton buds — items for which valid alternatives are available.
The proposed ban also calls to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic products like food and drink cups and containers, very light-weight plastic bags, and fast food cartons, to name a few.
According to EU’s research on plastic pollution, about 150,000 tons of plastic are tossed into European waters every year.
One Member of the European Parliament (MEP) said that if no action was taken, it will be disastrous for marine life in the coming years, per the BBC.
“By 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.”
The ban was proposed by the European Commission in May this year following a “surge in public support attributed to documentaries such as David Attenborough’s BBC Blue Planet series,” as well as awareness campaigns led by different non-governmental organizations.
The proposed ban will still have to undergo some procedural hurdles as it will have to be approved by member states, some of which are likely to push back against the new rule because of economic reasons. However, it is hoped that the ban will be implemented across the union by 2021.
Following the vote, Frederique Ries — the MEP responsible for the bill — appreciated the move.
“[The vote is] a victory for our oceans, for the environment and for future generations.”
Per the BBC report, parliament members also added changes to the plans for cigarette filters, which are plastic pollutants commonly found in marine litter. By 2025, cigarette manufacturers will be required to reduce plastic by 50 percent and 80 percent by 2030.
Moreover, the proposal also aimed at collecting 90 percent of all plastic drink bottles for recycling by 2025. At present, plastic bottles and their lids make up 20 percent of all sea plastic.
While the percentage of plastic pollutants in EU’s waters is only a small contributor to the massive global problem — with an estimated 8 million tons of plastic entering the world’s oceans each year — the move will be significant nonetheless because plastic can travel great distances on ocean currents, as reported by the BBC.
Plastic pollution has a huge impact on marine life. According to the non-profit organization Ocean Crusaders, some 100,000 marine creatures die from plastic entanglement, while approximately 1 million seabirds also die from plastic.