EU Market: Goodbye to Plastic Cultery, Plates and Straws
Europe wants to lead the fight against plastic pollution. On January 18th EU member states confirmed the provisional agreement reached between the presidency of the Council and the European Parliament on a new directive to introduce restrictions on certain single-use plastic products. In 2021 European citizens will say goodbye to plastic cutlery, plastic plates and plastic straws among other products.
The aim of the directive, which is part of the European Plastics Strategy, is to protect the environment and reduce marine litter by avoiding the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2. However, it should be noted the importance of the economic benefits that the new regulation will bring: the directive may avoid environmental damages which would cost the equivalent of €22 billion ($24.9 billion) by 2030 and save consumers a projected €6.5 billion ($7.38 billion). The Spanish Government has already announced its commitment to comply with the upcoming directive.
Marine litter made of plastics
The measures discussed are closely related to the latest estimates on marine litter, according to the European Commission, plastics make up 85% of beach litter, which is causing catastrophic consequences on the environment. The organization WWF has already pointed out the dramatic effects that the excessive use of plastics, poor management of waste and mass tourism are having in the Mediterranean Sea, the most visited sea in Europe.
According to the 2018 WWF report ‘Out of the plastic trap: saving the Mediterranean from plastic pollution,’ large plastic pieces injure, suffocate and often kill marine animals, including protected and endangered species. But it is microplastics that have reached record levels of concentration (1.25 million fragments per km2 in the Mediterranean Sea), threatening many animal species and people by entering the food chain. It is particularly disturbing the case of Spain, which is the second country to pour more plastic into the Mediterranean Sea (only after Turkey) and the fourth country in the EU that consumes more plastic.
“Marine litter is a growing global problem. We have all heard the warning by the World Economic Forum and others that, measured by weight, there will be more plastic than fish in the world's oceans by 2050 if we continue dumping plastic in the sea at the present rate. We cannot let this happen. This is why the EU takes action to restrict the use of certain throwaway plastic products for which good plastic-free alternatives exist. And we will make plastic producers pay for cleaning up”, said Elisabeth Köstinger, the Austrian federal minister of sustainability and tourism, when she announced the EU agreement last December.