By Saveria Antonacci
According to BBC News, the European Union voted to ban single-use plastic among member states by the year 2021. This decision is a reaction to the increasing amount of plastic that has found its way into waterways and oceans. After 2021, these items will be composed of more sustainable materials and their consumption will be reduced by 25 percent.
By definition, single-use plastic is disposable in nature and includes items such as plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, drink-stirrers, and straws. These items were chosen because alternatives for them already exist in reusable forms and paper forms. The use of plastic food and drink containers must also decrease, and cup and container lids can no longer detach. As per Forbes, single-use plastics compose around 70 percent of all marine litter in Europe’s waters. Other components of marine waste that will be reduced in plastic content are cigarette filters and fishing gear, as stated by NPR. Cigarette filters may take up to 10 years to decompose, while monofilament fishing line and other fishing tools that utilize plastic represent 27 percent of the waste found on European beaches.
In addition to plastic’s harmful effects on human health, these statistics reflect a major issue for marine life. The EU cited a report that predicts by the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea, according to CNN. In 2016, Chinese politicians decided to end the importation of plastic waste into China. This move forced Europeans to deal head-on with the plastic that they consume and stopped the major importation of waste into developing nations, per France24.
The stipulations have not been met without criticism. Some EU member states are worried the ban will hurt the industry, especially those located in the southern and eastern regions of Europe. New York Times states that “The European Parliament will next enter into negotiations with the European Council of government ministers for the 28 member states, who are expected to make a final decision on the legislation by Dec. 16.” Each country involved will be able to tailor the stipulations to their own conditions and needs, which helps to ensure that the ban will run smoothly and successfully.
In addition to the ban of single-use plastic, some European countries have implemented their own methods of further combatting an abundance of trash. According to UNEnvironment, islands off of the Adriatic coast in Italy have instituted a total single-use plastic ban and fines up to 500 euro for those who violate this law. Norway introduced reverse vending machines to collect recyclables in exchange for a monetary reward. In Ireland, shoppers have vowed to leave behind plastic packaging for the items they buy at supermarkets during a “shop and drop” day. This is done to make a statement to stores on the amount of unnecessary plastic they package groceries in. Lastly, the Netherlands charges its citizens to pick up their trash but not recyclables. As a result, an incentive to recycle is created so that residents may avoid this unneeded expense.
The advent of plastic has led to an over-dependency on its use in the modern day world. Politicians have recognized its negative effects on the environment and hope to lessen the footprint that plastic leaves on the earth for centuries to come. The EU’s ban on single-use plastic is a bold and swift call to action, in the hopes that other nations around the world will follow in its footsteps. After the overwhelming 571-53 vote, Belgian politician Frederique Ries tweeted that it was “a victory for our oceans, for the environment and for future generations.”