This week, the EU banned single-use plastic. It is said to become effective in 2021. Most single-use plastic, namely 40%, is used for packaging and less than one-fifth of the total amount of plastic is being recycled. The majority of the European Parliament voted for the plastic ban (571-53) (National Geographic, 2018).
Here are the answers to the five most important questions regarding the ban.
Currently, around 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans globally (Greenpeace, 2018). A record number of plastics, a record number of 12.000 pieces of microplastics particles per litre trapped in Arctic ice has been found by scientists earlier this year. Plastics partly travels extremely far and that is also one suggestion how it got to the Arctic (The Guardian2, 2018).
What will be banned?
The most critical items that will be banned are plastics that already have valid alternatives, such as straws, cotton buds and plastic cutlery. It is estimated that these items make up over 70% of all plastics entering the oceans. Other items, which have less, or none alternatives so far will be swapped out gradually by 2025.
Two further laudable proposals are that the EU will make the make the companies more accountable for their waste and that member states need to be obliged that 90% of plastic bottles are being recycled (The Independent, 2018).
Who are the largest producers of single-use plastics?
Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Danone have been exposed to be the four largest polluters. As expected, they are now lobbying to weaken the proposed law (Greenpeace, 2018). Hopefully, the EU holds it’s ground.
Why is plastic pollution a problem?
Fish, aquatic mammals, turtles, sea corals, plankton and turtles all eat the plastics. The plastics fill up the stomachs so that the animals are not able to eat real food and subsequently starve to death. Or they choke. Or they drown… (BBC News, 2018)
Austrian scientists have found that these swallowed plastics will also end up on the plates of humans and consequently end in their bodies. A study found that up to nine different sorts of plastic in the bodies of participants of Europe, Japan and Russia. Additionally, microplastics have also been found in tap water and in soft drinks (The Guardian1, 2018).
What will happen after Brexit?
Yes, the UK will have to incorporate the ban of single-use plastics if the ban becomes legit before the end of the Brexit transition period in 2020 (BBC News, 2018).
Will it be effective?
To keep plastic out of the oceans, manufacturers need to stop producing plastics in the first place. Furthermore, aluminium and other metal packaging should be the next big thing to ban as their production is not sustainable at all. However, it is a first step towards limiting plastic pollution on our planet and, especially in our oceans. And it is an important sign that the EU is sending out to other major contributors to plastic pollution.
You can find out, how much plastic you use on Greenpeace’s website.
BBC News (2018) Single-use plastics ban approved by European Parliament. 24th October. [online] [accessed 26th October] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-45965605
Gabatiss, J. (2018) European Parliament votes to ban single-use plastics in bid to tackle pollution. 24th October. The Independent. [online] [accessed 26th October] https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/plastic-pollution-ban-vote-eu-european-parliament-environment-ocean-meps-a8599686.html
Greenpeace (2018) European Parliament votes to protect people and nature from plastic pollution. 24th October [online] [accessed 26th October] https://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/issues/pollution/1693/eu-parliament-votes-plastic-pollution/
Harvey, F. and Watts, J. (2018) Microplastics found in human stools for the first time. 22nd October. The Guardian1. [online] [accessed 26th October] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/22/microplastics-found-in-human-stools-for-the-first-time
Howard, B. C., Gibbens, S., Zachos, E. and Parker, L. (2018) A running list of action on plastic pollution. 26th October. National Geographic. [online] [accessed 26th October] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/07/ocean-plastic-pollution-solutions/?cmpid=org=ngp::mc=social::src=twitter::cmp=editorial::add=tw20181026env-plasticpollutionlist::rid=&sf200899223=1
Taylor, M. (2018) Record levels of plastic discovered in Arctic sea ice. 24th April. The Guardian2. [online] [accessed 26th October] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/24/record-levels-of-plastic-discovered-in-arctic-sea-ice