EU Parliament approves new single-use plastics ban

The vote aims to ban items like plastic straws, cutlery, cups, plates and cotton buds

EU Parliament approves new single-use plastics ban

File photo of plastic trash lying on a beach, 0606-2017. Image: Christoph Sator/DPA/PA Images

The EU Parliament has voted in favour of measures that could lead to a complete ban on a range of single use plastics across the bloc.

The vote aims to ban items like plastic straws, cutlery, cups, plates and cotton buds in an attempt to tackle the amount of plastic waste in the sea.

The measure also aims to put more of the clean-up burden on the companies that produce the plastic products and packaging - and calls for a reduction in single use plastic containers for food and drink.

It still has a way to go before it is fully brought into European law – however the EU is hopeful it could be in effect across the bloc by 2021.

Recent studies have revealed that lost fishing gear and single use plastic products account for 70% of the litter in our oceans.

Following the vote today, Friends of the Earth Europe called on national governments to “show the same ambition” as the EU Parliament which it said had taken a leap forward to “protect people and the environment from plastic pollution.”

"The European Parliament has made history by voting to reduce single-use plastics and slash plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans" said spokesperson Meadhbh Bolger.

"Citizens across Europe want to see an end to plastic pollution.

“It's now up to national governments to keep the ambition high, and resist corporate pressure to continue a throwaway culture."

Responsibility

On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Mindy O'Brien from environmental group VOICE said consumers should not be left to shoulder responsibility for the plastic crisis.

“I think you need huge public awareness,” she said. “But you need the investment.”

“Also that investment should not only fall on us as the taxpayers – but it should fall on the people who are producing this packaging.

“In Ireland we are double the EU average rate for plastic packaging – in Europe it is 33 kg per head; here we are 61 kg per head.”

Plastic ban

Today’s vote will see MEPs deciding whether to implement new rules targeting 10 single-use plastic items that already have non-plastic alternatives.

In the Dáil meanwhile, politicians have been debating a Green Party motion calling for a ban on single use plastics in Ireland.

The party’s Waste reduction Bill would also introduce a deposit and refund scheme on drinks containers.

The Government said it would not oppose the bill; however party Eamon Ryan accused Fine Gael of administrative trickery, warning that by not actively supporting it, the Government had effectively blocked it from progressing.

Instead the Government announced a review of Ireland’s use of single plastics.

Progressive steps

Mr Ryan labelled the review a “do nothing exercise from a do nothing government on the Environment" and said authorities had missed a chance to make progressive steps instead of waiting for legislation from Europe.

The party’s deputy leader said the bill aims to “tackle the core of the plastic problem that plagues our country and our world.”

“The trillions of disposable products that are used for just a few minutes but can pollute our environment for centuries.”

Eating plastic

It comes as scientists proved for the first time that humans are ingesting microscopic plastic particles in their food.

A study involving eight countries found that up to nine different types of plastic were found in every sample investigated.

On average, the scientists found 20 particles of microplastic in every 10g of stool.

Previous studies have found significant amounts of plastic in tuna, lobster and shrimp.