Celebrating the wins no matter their scale is important. For environmentalists and nature- friends the great news last week was the voting by the European Parliament in favor of the proposals to take measures on 10 single-use plastics by 2021 and the collection of 90% of single-use plastic drink bottles. Sounds great right?
But before you jump around to note that is not a ban on all plastics. The ban is restricted to a select group of plastic items such as cutlery, plates, stirrers, straws, sticks for balloons, and cotton bud sticks which will face market restriction.
So the ban or market restriction is initially not for all plastic. However, in addition to the ban on these specific items, it is also a proposal to reduce the consumption of plastic food containers, and drink cups. In addition, there is a plan to collect 90% of single-use plastic bottles by 2025, for example through deposit refund schemes. And to change the drink containers and bottle design.
The manufacturers will bear responsibility for the products they create and should ensure correct labeling indicating how items should be disposed of, the negative impact of inappropriate disposal, and which type of plastic was used for production. The most important next step is to raise consumers’ awareness of available re-use systems and was management options, as well as, the negative impact on the environment of inappropriate disposal.
Waste Responsibility and China’s Ban
In the second edition of the EU legislation in Progress dated October 19, 2018, you can find an overview of the proposed measures per plastic items prepared by the European Parliamentary Research Service. Why is the market restriction on just a few items?
There are already alternative replacements on the market for plastic cutlery, plates, stirrers, and straws. Banning these items would be easy in several countries if the import of the alternative options takes place. There are also alternatives for drink cups and food containers as well but they are not yet as popular as the replacements for plastic cutlery and straws.
It is not a coincidence that many European Parliament Members were in favor of the Proposal. We know that there have been many research reports published over the years but what I think contributed to this decision is China’s ban on the import of 24 varieties of solid waste including plastic last year. Many countries in Europe and other countries of the world have been exporting their waste to China.
Now that it is not possible anymore because they have to deal with their own waste. By doing so they are able to quickly realize how much waste they are producing, which they did. They approved of the Proposal is a result of this.
Green Business Opportunities
Furthermore, this positive response to the proposal also brings business opportunities for entrepreneurs to come up with solutions on how to dispose of waste, create alternatives to replace plastic, and assist with the collection of plastic both recyclable and not recyclable.
It is a great initiative by Europe and I hope the Americas and the Caribbean get inspire to follow these steps towards a cleaner world/cleaner waters-environment/healthier marine life/ cleaner oceans.\
While the proposal has been received with open arms by eco-friends, there are several groups who are not happy with the proposal. Some argue that the plastic items are poorly defined, others say that the proposal failed to set specific market restrictions for food containers, and drink cups, and some argue that the considered extended producer (manufacturer) responsibility schemes could be misused. Others think that there should be specific strong regulations against producers of single-use plastics.
On the one hand, this proposal brings all sorts of difficulties for businesses that use plastics as raw materials to create their products. On the other hand, it also opens the door to new alternative innovative replacements for plastic.
What do you think of these developments? Feel free to leave your comments in the section below.