European Parliament opts for a ban on disposable plastic


A overwhelmingly large majority of MP’s the European Parliament have voted for a ban on the use of disposable plastic. Plastic straws, cotton swabs and plastic cutlery should therefore be banned from 2021 onwards. In addition, there are other measures to be introduced. For example, the plastic cap of a bottle must always stick to the bottle. The new rules should more than halve the waste mountain of the ten largest polluters and make oceans cleaner.

Disposable plastic such as plates, cutlery, stirrers and cotton swabs make up more than 70 percent of the marine litter. That is why Europe wants to put an end to its use.

The European Parliament therefore expressed itself massively for such a ban. 571 MPs supported the European Commission proposal, 53 MPs voted against it. 34 abstained.

The ban has not yet been definitively implemented. The European Parliament should now negotiate with the European Member States. For the parliament these negotiations will be led by the Belgian Frédérique Ries.

Plastic pollution on the beaches

How do you know exactly what is the most polluting? Very simple: go and look at the beaches. You soon see that 80 to 85 percent of the waste (at least in Europe) is plastic. According to a global calculation, the cleaning of the European economy costs between 259 and 695 million euros each year. Even worse, for example, a plastic bag is only used for an average of 15 minutes, but it can take up to 1,000 years to break down.

The proposal now voted on is not all about plastic. That is not necessary, writes Ries. She is not against plastic in genereal, because often it is necessary and indispensable, for example for keeping products fresh. But she is against plastic that only needs to be used once.

Our disposable society turns our oceans into a garbage can. 85 percent of all waste in the sea is plastic. Half of this is disposable material, a quarter are fishing nets. Every year 15,600 tons of disposable plastic are added to European waters. And about 135,000 tons of other plastic. If we do nothing, we will have more plastic than fish in our seas by 2050.

This proposal did not cover all disposable plastic. A top 10 has been compiled of the items most found on our beaches. Plastic bottles (and caps) and cigarette filters tops the list. Other culprits are cotton buds, chopsticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirring rods and sticks to which you can attach a balloon.

The last group must be completely banned, according to Ries. She finds a supporter in the Dutchman Bas Eickhout of GroenLinks:

Using disposable plastic for which we have long had good alternatives is no longer of this time.

For the bottles, these will have to be at least 25 percent recycled material in the future to be sold. Many manufacturers have already promised their cooperation. As far as cigarette filters are concerned, half of them should be replaced by environmentally-friendly materials by 2025, and 80 percent by 2030. The aim is to eventually replace all filters.

By: Nicholas de Kramer

Nicholas de Krammer, а self-taught economic analytic with heave mathematical background. Math behind the economics (and economics behind math) is the strong side of the author. Contact him at

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