Earlier this year, the European Commission (EC) proposed a ban or restrictions on the ten most common single-use plastic items in an attempt to counteract the negative effects of plastics on the environment. Certain places in the UK and US have also restricted the use of plastic items such as straws.

Among the products earmarked for the EC’s banned ‘Red List’ are plastic cutlery, plates and straws and cotton swab sticks. Plastic drink containers will be allowed but only if the lids are attached to the base.

The EC says that together with fishing gear, the products it has targeted makes up about 70% of marine litter.

It has proposed that where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market. Cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons will all have to be made exclusively from more sustainable materials instead.

The EC expects plastic product producers to help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness-raising measures for the industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives.

Member States will be obliged to collect 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, for example through deposit refund scheme; certain products will require clear labelling to show how waste should be disposed of, the negative environmental impact of the product, and the presence of plastics in the products. This directive will apply to sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons.

Member States will be obliged to raise consumers’ awareness about the negative impact of littering of single-use plastics and fishing gear as well as about the available re-use systems and waste management options for all these products.

While the proposed legislation was welcomed by environmental groups, PlasticsEurope says plastic alternatives may not be more sustainable and urged the EC to avoid taking shortcuts.

Rather than plastics, PlasticsEurope blames the problem on a lack of waste management infrastructure and inappropriate littering behaviour.

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