Can The EU Ban Single-Use Plastics?

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By: Casha Doemland

Single-use plastics are on the chopping block, and for a good reason. Currently, 8 million metric tons of plastic find their way to the ocean annually, and those same plastics can harm or kill nearly 100,000 marine animals and 1 million seabirds.

The European Union alone consumes 46 billion bottles, 36 billion straws, 16 billion coffee cups and 2 billion cigarette butts, 86% of which can be found along the coastlines and in the ocean.

Because of the alarming amount of plastic waste, the European Commission is taking action by proposing a ban on 10, single-use products throughout the European Union. To top things off, according to CNBC, “The proposal also requires EU countries to collect 90% of single-use plastic drink bottles by 2025.” What’s more, they want producers to help clean up and cover some of the costs that come along with it.

That in itself is a hefty request for businesses and manufacturers as they are looking at an additional $3.5 billion in costs annually.

However, saying goodbye to 3.4 million tons of CO2 while cleaning up plastic found alongside the coastlines, is a pretty easy sell. Plus, it’s estimated that 30,000 jobs would be created throughout the new measures as the EU strives to find sustainable alternatives and hire teams to activate the cleanups.

Outside of the notorious single-use coffee cups and straws, the EU and United Kingdom want to ban balloons and balloon sticks, food containers, plastic bags, sweets wrappers, wet wipes, cotton buds and even certain sanitary items.

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But are consumers willing to part ways with their single-use plastics of convenience?

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Californians took in stride the sudden absence of some 13 billion bags, even though a few grumbled at first, most adjusted quickly.”

When McDonald’s moved to remove plastic straws from its restaurants, CEO Paul Pomroy told Sky News, “Customers have told us that they don’t want to be given a straw and that they want to have to ask for one, so we’re acting on that.”

“Straws,” he added, “are one of those things that people feel passionately about, and rightly so, and we’re moving those straws behind the front counter.

But when the Latte Levy, a tax on single-use plastic cups, hit the UK earlier this year, members of the government had their doubts. The proposition was ultimately rejected, and the responsibility was placed on individual coffee shops and cafes to create a change.

Pushback is to be expected. It’s only natural that consumers are afraid of change, particularly when single-use plastics are a staple of our everyday life. That said, there’s no good reason that consumer can’t adapt.

Which raises the ultimate question, can other countries around the world achieve the same stance against plastic? In short, yes. Countries around the world and cities throughout the United States are currently taking the necessary steps to a slightly less plastic tomorrow.

Vancouver will ban plastic straws entirely starting next fall, and they’ve said they will attempt to be waste-free by 2040. Additionally, fines will be given out to businesses who do not comply with the new set of guidelines.  

Scotland also strives to ban plastic by 2019, which would make it the first UK nation to do so.

Taiwan is creating a step by step plan to phase out single-use items by 2030, starting with zero plastic straws in all major chain restaurants next year. According to Channel News Asia, “consumers will have to pay extra for straws, plastic shopping bags, disposable utensils and beverage cups from 2025, ahead of a full ban on the single-use items five years later.”

New York City, Hawaii, California, Washington, New Jersey and Florida have pending straw ban legislation. In fact, Malibu, CA and Monmouth Beach, NJ have officially placed the ban to phase out single-use plastic items for alternatives made of paper, wood or bamboo as of June 1. Even in South America, Chile has taken the initiative to ban retail businesses from using plastic bags.

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The amount of waste revolved around single-use plastic is no longer something people are comfortable sweeping under the rug.

Governments, activists, and even major brands like Ikea are advocating for change to save our oceans, and ultimately the well-being of our planet. It’s a necessary step in ridding the globe of wasteful plastics, particularly the scourge of single-use containers and straws.

So, how will you take a stand?


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Casha Doemland

LA-based and Georgia-bred, Casha Doemland spends her days crafting poetry and freelance writing. Over the last two years, she’s been published in a variety of publications and zines around the world. When she’s not nerding out with words, you can catch her watching a classic film, trekking around the globe or hanging out with a four-pound Pomeranian.

 

 

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