IN a huge move that demonstrates intent as well as a plan to translate it into action, the European Union Parliament approved a ban on the use of Single Use plastics. The ban is likely to take affect by 2021.
In a widely anticipated move, despite the protestations of some large corporate groups, the European Union Parliament has approved a complete ban on single use plastics. The ban, which will cover plastic products like single use cutlery, cotton buds, straws, stirrers and other everyday items, has also made provisions to target other key marine pollutants like fishing gear, cigarette filters etc. This group of products has been found to contribute almost 70% of the plastics polluting the oceans.
The MEP’s also added to the list products made of oxo-degradable plastics, such as packaging and fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene.
Producers have also been brought into the ambit of the new laws, with tobacco and fishing gear firms being asked to cover the costs of waste collection for their products, including transport, treatment and litter collection. They are also supposed to contribute to meeting recycling targets. Fishing gear is close to 27% of plastic waste found on European beaches.
Cigarette filters containing plastic have to be reduced by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030.
For readers, and possibly smokers who may not be aware, a single cigarette butt can pollute between 500 and 1000 litres of water, and thrown on the roadway, it can take up to twelve years to disintegrate. They are the second most littered single-use plastic items.
The extent of support for the moves, and the pressure to show real action, can be judged by the numbers in favour and against. While 571 of the MEP’s voted for it, only 53 found a reason to vote against, with 34 abstensions. In most cases, it appears that the vote against the ban was done more as a measure to demand more discussions around the issues, a favoured way to delay action. However, with public awareness growing fast for the green movement in the continent, it seems safe to say that on this issue, Europe has shown the way to the world, and everyone could benefit from following their example.
India of course has some way to go, but there is reason to feel optimistic about the eventual impact of the EU ban here, as it will give firms here time to learn from the changes businesses in EU make to adapt to the new reality.