STRASBOURG, FRANCE – The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly Wednesday for an EU-wide ban on single-use plastics such as straws, cutlery, cotton buds and balloon sticks.
The European Commission, the 28-nation EU’s executive arm, proposed banning such items that it said account for 70 percent of the waste in the oceans and beaches.
“Today we are one step closer to eliminating the most problematic single-use plastic products in Europe,” the EU’s environment commissioner Karmenu Vella said.
The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, voted for the ban on single-use plastic by 571 votes for, 53 against and 34 abstentions.
The legislation, which supporters want to take effect by 2021, must still be approved in negotiations involving the member states, parliament and the commission.
The WWF said the vote put “the EU on track as a global leader in reducing plastic pollution and pioneering stronger circular economies.”
However, it said the parliament missed an opportunity to close a legal loophole on the definition of single-use plastics, noting that it currently allows products to be labelled re-usable when they may not be.
The manufacturers association PlasticsEurope said the measures are “disproportionate,” adding that bans discourage investment needed to develop ways to recycle plastics.
Like WWF, it said single-use plastics definitions remain “ambiguous.”
The parliament said its ban across the EU targets single-use cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers, which were on the commission’s original list of 10 items.
MEPs added polystyrenes used to wrap fast-food and oxo-plastics, such as bags that have been touted as biodegradable but which break up into tiny particles.
The legislation calls for plastic items where no alternatives are available to be reduced by at least 25 percent by 2025.
Under the ban, drink bottles and other plastics will have to be collected separately and recycled at a rate of 90 percent by 2025.
The legislation calls for reducing waste from tobacco products, especially cigarette filters containing plastic, by 50 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2030.
Cigarette butts can take up to 12 years to disintegrate when thrown on a road, the parliament said.
It calls for member states to ensure that tobacco firms cover the costs of waste collection for those products.
The bill calls on member countries to ensure that at least 50 percent of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic is collected annually.
It calls for recycling at least 15 percent of fishing gear — which accounts for 27 percent of the litter on Europe’s beaches — by 2025.
Producers of fishing gear containing plastic will also need to assume the cost of collecting litter and helping to meet the recycling target.
Frederique Ries, a member of the liberal ALDE party, said the bill he steered through parliament is “the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics.”
He added “it is up to us now to stay the course in the upcoming negotiations with” the EU member states, which could start next month.
He said the legislation is needed to protect the environment and cut damage from plastics that will rise to an estimated €22 billion ($25 billion) by 2030.
The European Commission has said businesses will benefit from having one set of rules for an EU market of around 500 million people.
It said the move will encourage EU companies to develop economies of scale and become more competitive in the “booming” global market for sustainable products.
The EU push to crack down on plastic use follows China’s decision to ban imports of foreign waste products for recycling.