THE EUROPEAN UNION has proposed a bloc-wide ban on single-use plastics such as straws, cutlery and cotton buds – while also urging the collection of most plastic drinks bottles by 2025.
The set of proposals are part of a growing EU drive to rid the environment of plastic waste that has begun showing up in the food chain.
“Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem,” EU first vice president Frans Timmermans said.
“Today’s proposals will reduce single-use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures.”
The proposals call for banning plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks, but it did not set a deadline.
These items must all be made from sustainable materials instead, according to the plan, which must be approved by the 28 EU member countries and the European Parliament.
Under the plan, member states must reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups, by promoting alternatives for sale or ensuring they are not offered free.
They must also collect 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, through deposit refund schemes, for example.
Elsewhere, the plan calls for producers to clearly label products and inform consumers how to dispose of the waste.
Producers must also contribute to the costs of waste management and will be offered incentives to develop less polluting alternatives.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said businesses will benefit from one set of rules for an EU market of around 500 million people.
The proposals will be sent to the European Parliament and Council for approval, but the commission said it wanted “tangible results” for residents before next May’s elections.
In Ireland, the measures were welcomed by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who described them as a “mirror image” of what is being proposed in his party’s Waste Reduction Bill.
The Bill, which was introduced into the Dáil last year, proposed a ban on disposable non-compostable tableware, such as plastic cups and plates, and the introduction of a deposit and return scheme for drinks bottles and cans.
Last week, an Oireachtas committee voted to press ahead with the Bill, despite attempts by Environment Minister Denis Naughten to delay plans for a return scheme due to the potential cost.
While the proposal has been welcomed by local environmentalists, some business groups have raised concerns about the Bill.
Earlier this year, independent grocers’ group RGDATA told TDs that it was worried about banning non-compostable containers and tableware in the absence of “affordable substitutes”.
Additional reporting by Sarah Harford