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The European Commission today presented a proposal to ban plastic disposable tableware and cutlery, straws, balloons and sticks for the ears.
A manta ray faces plastic trash in the ocean.
These are some of the plastic products that the EU plans to ban, in an attempt to combat the enormous pollution of the oceans with this material.
The use of other disposable plastic items will also be combated. “We strongly believe in this initiative,” said Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans in Brussels. “It’s good for Europe and for the world.”
The plans affect the plastics industry, which according to figures from the Commission had in 2015 a turnover of 340,000 million euros (396,000 million dollars) in the European Union (EU) and gave employment to 1,500 million people. However, most of the products that will be banned are not manufactured in the EU.
Timmermans stressed to reassure consumers that there are more environmentally friendly alternatives to products that will be banned. It will continue to be able to celebrate outdoor parties, remove cocktails or clean the ears, he said.
In addition to the moral issue, there are also good economic reasons to advance the proposal, he added. Until 2030, environmental damages worth 22 billion euros could be avoided, the Commission estimated. Consumers could save 6,500 million euros.
Measures to protect the oceans
The Commission argues that measures must be taken to protect the oceans, where 500,000 tons of plastic waste will stop annually. More than 80 percent of the waste in the seas is plastic.
The directive of the Commission affects ten products, as well as disposable fishing nets that according to their analysis together constitute 70 percent of the garbage on the beaches.
Only products for which, in the opinion of the Commission, there are alternatives, will be prohibited. Plastic packaging for food and beverages will remain in circulation, but will be reduced to the maximum. To this end, the member countries of the EU should establish reduction targets and label products in a unitary manner.
In addition, until 2025 all EU countries must collect 90 percent of their plastic bottles for recycling, if necessary with a returnable deposit system like the one that exists in Germany since 2003.
They propose that manufacturers assume cleaning costs
The proposal also defends that the manufacturers of certain products assume part of the costs of cleaning the environment and information campaigns. Until now they were paid by the taxpayers and, for example, by the tourism sector, which already contributes 30 million euros annually to clean the beaches.
The manufacturers of fishing nets with plastic components will also have to deal with waste management. The Commission has not established, however, the amount of the sum that they must contribute.
The directive is for the moment a draft that must be negotiated by the member states and in the European Parliament, so that its approval and implementation could take years.