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EU Parliament Bans Plastics Responsible for 70% of Ocean Trash

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Plastic bottles on a beach in Norway (not a member country of the EU). Bo Eide / Flickr

The European Parliament approved a ban on single-use plastics Wednesday, meaning that common plastic items that make up 70 percent of marine litter will be banned in the EU by 2021, the parliament announced in a press release.

The law also sets targets for the collection of plastic bottles, includes new labeling laws and strengthens provisions to ensure companies pay to clean up the pollution they cause.

"Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said, as The Guardian reported. "We got this, we can do this. Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world."


The details of the new rule are as follows:

1. Banned Items: The following items will be banned in the EU by 2021:

  • Single-use plastic cutlery
  • Single-use plastic plates
  • Plastic straws
  • Cotton swabs with plastic sticks
  • Plastic balloon sticks
  • Oxo-degradable plastics and food containers and expanded polystyrene cups

2. Plastic Bottles: Plastic bottles will need to be made with 25 percent recycled material by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030. EU states will need to collect 90 percent of plastic bottles by 2029.

3. The Polluter Pays: The law will strengthen provisions requiring companies to pay for cleaning up pollution. This will mean requiring cigarette companies to pay for removing cigarette butts and fishing gear manufacturers to pay for removing nets from the sea, CNN explained.

4. Clearer Labeling: Items like cigarette filters, plastic cups, wet wipes and sanitary napkins will be labeled if they contain plastic and the labels will include instructions for disposing of them in an environmentally responsible manner.

The European Commission first introduced the ban in May of 2018 and it was approved by member states in October of that year, according to CNN. The measure passed European Parliament with 560 votes. Thirty-five opposed it and 28 abstained. Only a few formalities now stand between the rule and its publication in the EU rulebook, after which member states will need to act, The Guardian explained.

The European Commission estimates that 80 percent of marine litter is made up of plastic. Belgian member of the European Parliament Frédérique Ries said the measure should save the EU €22 billion (approximately $24 billion), the expected cost of plastic pollution in the block up to 2030.

"Europe now has a legislative model to defend and promote at international level, given the global nature of the issue of marine pollution involving plastics. This is essential for the planet," Ries said in the European Parliament press release.

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