The European Parliament has voted 571-53 to ban single-use plastics, including plastic cutlery, stirrers, cups, straws, plates, and cotton bud sticks, from 2021. The directive bans certain single-use plastics “where alternatives are readily available and affordable,” and “where there is no real alternative material to plastics, the directive’s goal is to significantly reduce the use.” The bill also includes measures for increased producer responsibility, including fishing gear manufacturers ensuring 50% of their lost or abandoned plastic equipment is collected per year, and cigarette producers covering costs of butt collection and processing. Additionally, the bill mandates that EU states recycle 90% of plastic bottles by 2025 and assigns some waste management costs on producers.
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With plastic waste as one of the top priorities for consumers, plastic pollution is now a major public concern. This EU vote to ban single-use plastics, significantly reduce the use of other plastics, and place further responsibilities on producers, is the type of strong legislation needed to realize the plastic-reduction goals the public. While the EU is one of the biggest markets for plastics, it isn’t the only one. Could this landmark bill pave the way for other nations and regions to introduce similar legislation? What potential challenges do producers, consumers, and recyclers of plastics and their bio-based replacements face in the coming years? And finally, how might we as individuals take part in easing this transition away from plastics?