European officials agree on ban of some single-use plastics

FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press Yahoo News 20 Dec 18;

BERLIN (AP) — Plastic knives just won't cut it any longer, if the European Union has its way.

The 28-nation bloc moved closer to banning single-use straws, plates, cutlery and cotton swabs, after officials from EU member states and the European Parliament on Wednesday backed recommendations by its executive branch designed to reduce marine pollution.

Environmental campaigners have been calling for curbs on throwaway plastic that's accumulating in the oceans because, unlike organic materials, it doesn't decompose but simply breaks down into ever smaller pieces.

Scientific studies have found minuscule particles known as microplastics are being consumed by animals throughout the food chain, though the impact on human health is unclear.

"When we have a situation where one year you can bring your fish home in a plastic bag, and the next year you are bringing that bag home in a fish, we have to work hard and work fast," said Karmenu Vella, the European commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries.

The EU's executive branch, the European Commission, estimates that almost 60 percent of the 25.8 million metric tons (28.4 million tons) of plastic waste produced in the bloc each year comes from packaging, with much of it exported to third countries rather than recycled.

German environmental group NABU claims that about 350,000 metric tons of plastic waste could be prevented in Germany alone with the ban.

Once the ban is formally approved, countries will have two years to restrict the use of single-use plastic products, which will also include drink stirrers, balloon sticks, and polystyrene food and beverage containers, though plastic cups are exempt for now.

PET bottles sold in the EU will have to contain at least 25 percent recycled plastic from 2025, rising to 30 percent by 2030.

The EU also wants to work with manufacturers to inform consumers of the presence of plastic in wet wipes and cigarette filters.

The move comes a day after the EU executive, member states and the European Parliament agreed to lower emissions limits for new vehicles from 2030. According to the plan, automakers' fleet-wide emissions of carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas — will need to be cut by 37.5 percent compared to 2021.

EU agrees to ban most single-use plastics
AFP Yahoo News 19 Dec 18;

Brussels (AFP) - EU countries and the European Parliament on Wednesday agreed details of a ban on single-use plastics, including plates, cutlery and drinking straws, in a bid to cut marine pollution.

The new rules, which still need final approval before becoming law, target the top 10 items most frequently found littering European beaches.

Plastic cotton bud sticks and expanded polystyrene food containers are also barred, as the EU tries to cut back on products that account for huge quantities of waste in the world's oceans.

Officials from the parliament and the EU Council, which represents the bloc's member states, negotiated through the night, finally reaching a deal on Wednesday morning after 12 and a half hours of wrangling.

"Where possible, the measures laid down in this directive and their implementation should give priority to waste prevention or to the transition to reusable products rather than to other single-use alternatives," the council said in a statement.

In a measure of the gravity of the ocean plastics crisis, the legislation has been rushed through the EU's normally sluggish procedures in quick time.

The EU hopes to complete the final legal steps to bring the new rules into force in 2021.

The European Commission has said single-use plastics account for some 70 percent of the waste in the oceans and beaches, and research in October appeared to show for the first time the widespread presence of plastics in the human food chain.