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EU moves closer to banning single-use plastic cutlery, plates, and straws

Parliament adds polystyrene foam containers and oxo-degradable plastics to plan

by Cheryl Hogue
October 25, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 43


Photo shows a plastic straw.
Credit: Shutterstock

The European Union has taken a major step toward banning single-use plastic cutlery, plates, straws, and beverage stirrers by 2021. The European Parliament approved the planned prohibition on Oct. 24.

The proposal, unveiled earlier this year, targets single-use plastic consumer products that are found in greatest numbers on EU shorelines and for which nonplastic alternatives are now available. The Parliament broadened the planned ban by adding takeout food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene.

Lawmakers also altered the proposal to ensure that the ban would cover products made with transition-metal-based oxo-degradable additives. Some companies have claimed that oxo-degradable plastics are a solution to litter problems. But a 2015 United Nations report found no independent evidence that these materials break down more rapidly in marine environments than plastics without these additives.

The plan approved by the Parliament also requires the EU to recycle 90% of certain plastics, including beverage bottles, by 2025. Cigarette makers would have to slash use of plastic in filters 80% by 2030.

PlasticsEurope, an association representing plastics manufacturers, says, “Bans are not the solution. They will discourage investments that are crucial to further develop technologies and infrastructure to recycle plastics.”

Members of the Parliament approved the planned ban with a vote of 571 to 53, with 34 abstentions. The proposal now goes to the European Council, which serves as the upper chamber of the EU legislature.


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