The EU Just Approved a Wide-Ranging Ban on Single-Use Plastic

10 single-use plastic products will be banned by 2021 and EU states must recycle 90 percent of plastic bottles by 2025.

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(Rich Carey /

In a groundbreaking vote, the EU has approved an ambitious ban on single-use plastic.

The European Parliament gathered on October 24, 2018, to approve legislation that would tackle the widespread problem of plastic pollution. In an overwhelming vote, a sweeping majority of 571-53, voted for the ban, which would go into effect by 2021.

Frédérique Ries, the Belgium Member of the European Parliament (MEP) who drafted the bill called the vote “a victory for our oceans, for the environment and for future generations.”

The bill bans plastic cutlery, plates, straws, cotton buds, drink stirrers, and balloon sticks, which make up 70 percent of ocean litter.

Currently, about 150,000 tons of plastic are thrown into the European oceans every year. This plastic eventually gets shredded into tiny pieces that harm wildlife, and also sometimes end up on people’s dinner plates.

The legislation also includes reduction targets for plastic items that don’t currently have replacements, such as burger boxes and sandwich wrappers. By 2025, member countries are expected to reduce such products by 25 percent.

The bill also calls for 90 percent of all single-use plastic bottles to be recycled by 2025. Europe currently recycles about 57 percent of plastic bottles. According to research done by the European Union, bottles and lids make up 20 percent of plastic marine pollution.

On Wednesday Frédérique Ries stated, "Today's vote paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive. It is essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe, estimated at 22 billion euros by 2030."

Cigarettes are also facing new regulation. Pollution from tobacco filters is another significant source of marine pollution, as it is the most littered single-use plastic item. New targets will limit such products by 50 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2030.

These targets and bans are extraordinarily pioneering feats, which will ideally encourage many countries to follow suit. Protecting our oceans, and the glorious marine life within those oceans, requires governments, citizens, and private companies to work together.

Legislation such as the EU’s new ban is a critical first step. Here’s to a new plastic-free era.

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