Yesterday, the European Commission published a proposed directive to reduce the use of single use plastics within the European Union. This proposal is intended to fight the problem of plastic waste that litters the oceans across the planet. Single use plastics such as shopping bags, straws, and drink cups comprise about half of the marine litter on beaches in Europe. The proposed policy would work in concert with the existing EU Plastics Strategy adopted earlier this year.
Under the proposal, a single use plastic would be defined as a “product that is made wholly or partly from plastic and that is not conceived, designed or placed on the market to accomplish, within its life span, multiple trips or rotations by being returned to the producer for refill or reused for the same purpose for which it was conceived.” EU member states would need to take measures to reduce consumption of single use plastics within 6 years of a finalized Directive. Such measures could include reduction in use, charges for use, or use of alternative materials that are reusable. Any single use plastics with a cap or lid predominantly made of plastic would need to stay affixed to the container. This would help with the problem of plastic bottle caps that are often discarded and not recycled. Any single use product would have to be properly labeled to include appropriate disposal methods as well as a warning that it was made with plastic, which has a detrimental impact on the planet. Although not specified, the plan also includes calls for a scheme to assign certain responsibility to producers of such materials. There is also a call for collection of such products separately by the year 2025. Finally, an educational plan to raise the awareness of the problems with single use plastics as well as alternatives is also proposed.
This is a very ambitious plastics program that would be one of the toughest throughout the world. There are calls in some other cities across the U.S. to ban certain types of single use plastics, such as drinking straws and plastic shopping bags. However, there are no current proposals that are as sweeping as this.