The European Parliament has approved legislation which paves the way for a 90% collection target for plastic bottles by 2029, as well as a full ban on many single-use plastic products from 2021.
The proposals, which also included extended producer responsibility for the tobacco industry to deal with cigarette butts, were overwhelmingly passed yesterday (March 27) by MEPs, with 560 votes in favour and 35 against.
Following this approval by the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers will finalise the formal adoption. This endorsement will be followed by the publication of the texts in the Official Journal of the Union.
Depending on the final date for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU – the new rules could apply to the UK as well.
This is despite the UK developing its own proposals to deal with plastic waste, many of which have been set out in the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy. This includes a tax on plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled content, which could rise in the future.
The government also announced in October 2018 that it was consulting on plans to ban single-use plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds, which it intends to roll out between October 2019-2020.
The UK currently has a recycling rate for plastic bottles of around 57%, according to plastics recycling charity RECOUP.
According to the European Parliament, the agreement also “strengthens the application of the polluter pays principle”, in particular for tobacco, by introducing extended responsibility for producers. This new regime will also apply to fishing equipment, to ensure that manufacturers, and not the fishing industry, bear the costs of collecting nets lost at sea.
The move will see single-use plastic cutlery, straws, cotton buds, Oxo-degradable plastics and food containers and expanded polystyrene cups all banned in the Union by 2021.
Other targets in the legislation include a 25% minimum recycled content in bottles by 2025, rising to 30% five years later.
Commenting on the agreed proposals, the Belgian lead MEP, Frédérique Ries, said: “This legislation will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22 billion – the estimated cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030.
“Europe now has a legislative model to defend and promote at international level, given the global nature of the issue of marine pollution involving plastics. This is essential for the planet.”
EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, added: “Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas. We got this, we can do this. Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world.”