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First steps taken to cut single-use plastics in Europe 

Plastic bottles and other garbage pictured on a street near the Hauptbahnhof main train station in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Plastic bottles and other garbage pictured on a street near the Hauptbahnhof main train station in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

The European Commission has taken a leap forward in tackling plastic pollution, with new laws to reduce throwaway single-use plastics. 

The proposal, which is designed to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, in particular the marine environment, sets a number of different policy measures to tackle these problematic single-use products, ranging from bans and reduction efforts to labelling and extended producer responsibility schemes.

Martin Galea De Giovanni, director at Friends of the Earth Malta, said: “Following the public outcry, these new laws are addressing the call of citizens. These positive steps will cut pollution and at the same time, create job opportunities.” 

The range of legislative measures includes: 

• A ban on single-use plastic straws, cutlery and plates, cotton buds and balloon sticks; 

Following the public outcry, these new laws are addressing the call of citizens

• A requirement to achieve ‘significant’ reductions in the consumption of plastic food containers and cups within six years, through measures such as national consumption reduction targets, minimum reusable packaging targets, or ensuring that such items are not provided free of charge.

• A 2025 target of 90 per cent separate collection of plastic bottles, to be achieved through Extended Producer Responsibility schemes or the implementation of deposit return schemes; 

• Detailed labelling on sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons, informing consumers of the negative environmental impact of their inappropriate disposal; 

• The introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for waste fishing gear, cigarette butts, beverage containers including lids and caps, food containers, lightweight plastic bags and wet wipes, among others. 

However, De Giovanni added that “unfortunately, the legislation fails to set specific EU-wide reduction targets for food containers and beverage cups, at least not before 2027. We believe that it is vital to shorten this time period to three years after transposition, rather than six”. 

The European Parliament and the Council of EU ministers will discuss and amend the legislative proposal in the coming months.

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