Yesterday, the European Parliament voted to ban single-use plastics — like straws, plates, coffee stirrers and lids, to-go containers, and cutlery — by 2021 (h/t The Guardian). The ban will go into effect in all EU member states and possibly the U.K., depending on what happens with Brexit.
The European Commission first proposed this ban last year, calling out the 10 single-use plastic items that make up 70 percent of all litter in EU waters and beaches. With this vote, the ban is official.
The legislation also outlines goals that by 2025 plastic bottles should be made of 25 percent recycled content, and that by 2029 90 percent of them should be recycled.
This is part of a global initiative to reduce plastic waste in oceans, which shakes out to about 8 million metric tons per year — all of which will take at least 450 years to biodegrade. Those are some pretty bleak statistics, but there’s some hope when you see countries around the world starting to instill plastic-reducing initiatives. In addition to this EU ban, Kenya has instated the world’s toughest ban on plastic bags, Montreal has axed single-use plastic bags, and Taiwan has plans to get rid of all single-use plastics by 2030.
Europe isn’t the only one trying to cut down on plastic consumption. Here in the U.S., we’ve also made some moves to eliminate single-use plastics, mostly straws. Starbucks announced it will eliminate plastic straws from all 28,000 of its locations by 2020, replacing them with a sort of adult sippy-cup lid. Starbuck’s home city of Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban single-use plastics (straws, utensils, etc.) last year, followed by California and Washington, D.C. New York City might be next.
I’m not sure how quickly the U.S. will follow in Europe’s footsteps with a wide-reaching plastic ban of its own. We’re too obsessed with convenience and instant gratification. More feasibly, my colleague Jenn recently suggested that if food delivery companies got on board with plastic reduction, maybe replacing plastic cutlery with biodegradable options, that could be a massive help in our to-go-loving culture. Hopefully one or the other will happen before our oceans become even more clogged with plastics.