In efforts to preserve waters and beaches across its territories, the EU is aiming to cut the use of plastics with a new proposed EU-wide regulation identifying the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and in its seas.
With the rules, the European Commission aims to reduce the use of plastic products, which account for 70 percent of all marine litter items. Fishing gear accounts for 27 percent of all beach litter. Under the said regulation, plastic products will have to be replaced with environmentally friendly alternatives with the ultimate goal to ban single-use plastic products from the market altogether.
For products without available or affordable alternatives, the focus will be on limiting their use through the reduction in consumption on a national level; design and labelling requirements and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers.
The Commission has proposed banning straws, plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons with the aim to cut marine litter in half for the ‘notorious top 10’ and avoid environmental damage estimated at over 250 billion dollars over the next dozen years.
Meanwhile, in this direction, the Northern Sporades island of Alonissos was awarded for its commitment to sustainable practices and policies at Stockholm’s Mediterranean Panorama for its “Alonissos without Plastic Bags” initiative, aiming to eliminate the use of plastic bags and launching the use of cloth alternatives instead.
Indicatively, also in this direction, the Cycladic island of Sikinos is the first in Greece, to do away with plastic straws and replace them with a bio-degradable alternative paving the way for other islands in the complex to follow suit in the next five years.
EU Vice President Frans Timmermans responsible for sustainable development said the accumulation of plastic waste on sea beds and beaches is “undeniably a big issue, and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem”, adding that new proposals also include penalties for polluters.
At the same time, EU members will have to slash the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups through national reduction targets or by making alternative products available at the point of sale. Producers will help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness raising measures for food containers, packets and wrappers (such as for crisps and sweets), drinks containers and cups, tobacco products with filters (such as cigarette butts), wet wipes, balloons, and lightweight plastic bags. The industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products;
The proposal is set to go to European Parliament and Council for adoption with Timmermans hoping to see results before May 2019.