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European Commission unveils proposal for single-use plastics ban

European Commission seeks ban on items such as plastic cotton buds and cutlery in an effort to combat ocean pollution.

single-use plastics

The European Commission has called for a ban on single-use plastic products, including cutlery and straws, in an effort to combat ocean and beach pollution.

The proposal, which was announced by the EU's executive on Monday, wants to ban any single-use plastic item for which a non-plastic alternative is readily available.

This covers plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks.

The commission also wants member states to have collected 90 percent of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025 and reduce the use of plastic food containers and drink cups through setting national targets.

"Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmerman said. 

The new measures also include obligations for producers to help cover the costs of clean-up and waste management for items such as cigarette butts, wet wipes and lightweight plastic bags. 

Producers of fishing gear, which make up more than a quarter of beach litter, will need to pay for waste collection and awareness-raising measures.

The plan did not set a deadline, and will need to be assessed and approved by the EU parliament and member states.

'Europe-wide response'

Recent research published in Scientific Reports estimates that a waste patch three times the size of France containing at least 79,000 tonnes of plastic debris is afloat between California, on the US west coast, and Hawaii, in the central Pacific Ocean.

If nothing is done to address the problem, by 2050, the amount of marine plastic waste could surpass the total weight of fish in the ocean, according to a 2016 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The European Green Party welcomed the European Commission's plan. 

"The scale of the problem means that we cannot rely on individual European countries to take action and must instead find a Europe-wide response," co-chairs Monica Frassoni and Reinhard Butikofer said.

The PlasticsEurope association urged the European Commission to "avoid shortcuts". 

"Plastic product bans are not the solution and will not achieve the structural change needed to build the foundation for a sustainable and resource efficient economy," the industry group said in a statement. 

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