The European Union has put a ban on the sale of 10 types of single-use plastic products in an effort to slow plastic pollution. The ban, which comes to effect on July 3, will stop the sale of products that are commonly found on European shores, including plastic bottle caps, cutlery, straws, plastic foam food and beverage containers and more.
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Europe has been revamping its plastic waste management. This push follows the large-scale plastic pollution witnessed across the continent and the world. About 85% of Europe’s saltwater beaches and seas exceed the recommended pollution standards on marine litter.
The ban is the most direct sign of Europe’s efforts to stop plastic pollution. The EU Plastics Strategy was put forward in 2018, with the aim of completely changing how plastics are designed, made and recycled. According to the guidelines, all plastic packaging used in the EU must be recyclable by the end of the decade.
The measures have already improved plastic packaging recycling rates in the EU to 41.5% in just over two years. They are hailed as being the toughest measures in terms of plastic waste management globally. Plastic packaging recycling in Europe is already three times the rates in the U.S. and is expected to continue growing. According to the EU, 50% of plastic packaging in the union will be recyclable by 2025. The continent already looks set to meet that target. Further, the union has set a goal of collecting 77% of all plastic bottle waste by 2025 and 90% of this type of waste by 2029.
The overhaul of the system is expected to work based on a widescale adoption of producer responsibility. Producers of plastic packaging will be expected to take full responsibility for their waste. This means that companies will have to pay for the full cost of collection, transportation and recycling.
“The EU is taking the creation of a circular economy very seriously, and plastics are at the centre of it,” explained Henning Wilts, director of circular economy at Germany’s Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, as reported by Yale Environment 360.
Globally, only 14% to 18% of plastic packaging is recycled, which is less than half of Europe’s average. The U.S. recycles less than 10% of its plastic waste, according to Greenpeace.
“Many types of commonly used plastic packaging are not recyclable and are being landfilled, incinerated, or exported without verification of recycling,” a Greenpeace report said.
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