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EU to ban plastic straws, cutlery and balloons

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The EU has confirmed that it aims to ban straws, cutlery, plates and balloon sticks made of plastic as part of a purge on the use of plastics.

Plastic straws | Photo credit: Press Association

The European Commission is seeking to reduce plastics polluting the environment, especially in oceans and on beaches.

According to a detailed draft legislative proposal seen by this website, the Commission has chosen to ban items such as straws and balloon sticks because “readily available alternatives” exist.

The proposals are due to be formally tabled by the end of May.

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The document outlining the legislative proposal states that the “relatively high functionality and low cost” of plastic means the material is “increasingly ubiquitous in everyday life.”

It adds, “Its growing use in short lived applications which are not designed for re-use or cost-effective recycling means that related production and consumption patterns have become increasingly inefficient.”

The Commission first revealed plans for its plastics strategy in January, with the aim being for all plastic packaging to be reusable or recyclable by 2030.

The latest document sets out in more detail the lengths to which the Commission is aiming to go to curb single-use plastics. Industry and civil society are, however, still divided over what should be the fundamental goal of the strategy.

The leaked document calls for a “significant reduction” in the consumption of single use plastic products.

The aim of the directive, it notes, is to “prevent and to reduce the impact of certain single use plastic products and fishing gear on the environment.”

It says that member states “should lay down the rules on penalties” for offenders and “shall take all necessary measures to ensure that they are implemented.”

It goes on, “The penalties shall be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.”

The finer details of the single-use plastic proposal are still being hammered out, but the Commission suggests that the plan will address items like bottles, cutlery, cups and lids.

Margrete Auken, who was Parliament’s rapporteur for the 2015 EU legislation to reduce plastic bag use, heralded the proposals as a “new dawn for plastic management.”

She said the leak of the Commission’s draft legislative proposal on plastics was generally welcome.

The Dane, who sits on the environment, public health and food safety committee, said, “At last, we see a new dawn for plastic management. There has never been a proper, holistic approach to plastic production, consumption and disposal and the dire consequences are clear to see.

“The proposal to ban single use products like straws and cutlery is welcome, as are the reduction targets for food containers and plastic cups. What is missing is action on the dangerous chemicals found in many plastic products. We need to take toxics out of plastics.

“The Commission’s proposals look like a good start, but they will need to be strengthened if they are to meet the expectations of the citizens and NGOs that have campaigned for action on plastic pollution.”

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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