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EU Tackles Marine Pollution, Bans 10 Single-use Plastic Items

© AP Images/European Union-EP

© AP Images/European Union-EP

In view of dangerously increasing pollution of waters and beaches across its territories, the EU approved this week a law that bans a wide range of single-use plastic items, including straws, cotton buds, cutlery, and plates, by 2021.

The Commission proposed the action last June 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. At the same time, due to the slow rate of decomposition, plastic residue has been found in marine species including fish and shellfish, impacting the human food chain.

The European Commission headquarters in Brussels. Photo Source: @European CommissionFinal implementation of the legislation, which was backed by 560 MEPs on Wednesday, is expected in the next few weeks with member states having two years to transpose the legislation into their national law.

The law foresees the ban of 10 single-use plastic items as well as abandoned fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics; sets a target to collect and recycle 90 percent of beverage bottles by 2029; and aims to introduce design requirements to connect caps to bottles, as well as target to incorporate 25 percent of recycled plastic in PET bottles as of 2025, and 30 percent in all plastic bottles starting in 2030.

“Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world,” said the European Commission’s first vice-president Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development.

With the new law, the European Commission aims to reduce the use of plastic products, which account for more than 80 percent of all marine litter  items. Fishing gear accounts for 27 percent of all beach litter.

Plastic products will now have to be replaced with environmentally friendly alternatives with the ultimate goal to ban single-use plastic products from the market altogether.

“Our main task will be to ensure that these ambitious measures are quickly implemented in practice, which will be common work for public authorities, producers and consumers alike,” said commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, Karmenu Vella.

In the meantime, the EU’s Plastics Strategy, the first-ever Europe-wide action to address the issue of plastic waste, aims to prompt member states towards a more circular economy while motivating businesses to redesign products and recycle.

In Greece

In Greece meanwhile, 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.

Alonissos Photo Source: @Visit Alonissos (nakis.kostas)

Alonissos island. Photo Source: @Visit Alonissos (nakis.kostas)

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.

Greece recently enacted EU legislation whereby consumers are obliged to pay an extra 8 cents per plastic bag. The goal is to reduce the number of bags per consumer to 90 per year per person in the next two years, and to 40 by 2025.

Greece holds the top spot in Europe in terms of per capita use of plastic bag exceeding the EU average of 175 per person.

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