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#PlasticOceans - MEPs back EU ban on polluting throwaway plastics by 2021

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Plastic carrier bags and other garbage pollution in ocean Plastic carrier bags and other pollution in ocean - ©AP Images/European Union-EP 

Single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery or cotton buds, making up over 70% of marine litter, will be banned under plans backed in the Environment Committee.

Single-use plastic products such as cutlery, cotton bud sticks, plates, straws, beverage stirrers and balloon sticks will be banned from the EU market from 2021, under draft plans approved last week by the Environment and Public Health Committee.

In the report drafted by Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE), adopted with 51 votes to 10, with three abstentions, MEPs added to this list: very lightweight plastic bags, products made of oxo-degradable plastics and fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene.

National reduction targets

The consumption of several other items, for which no alternative exists, will have to be reduced by member states in an “ambitious and sustained” manner by 2025. This includes single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes or food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams. Member states will draft national plans to encourage the use of products suitable for multiple use, as well as re-using and recycling.

Other plastics, such as beverage bottles, will have to be collected separately and recycled at a rate of 90% by 2025.

Cigarette butts and lost fishing gear

MEPs agreed that reduction measures should also cover waste from tobacco products, in particular cigarette filters containing plastic. It would have to be reduced by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030.

One cigarette butt can pollute between 500 and 1,000 litres of water, and thrown on the roadway, it can take up to twelve years to disintegrate. They are the second most littered single-use plastic items.

Member states should also ensure that at least 50% of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic is collected per year, with a recycling target of at least 15% by 2025. Fishing gear represents 27% of waste found on Europe’s beaches.

Extended producer responsibility

Member states would have to ensure that tobacco companies cover the costs of waste collection for those products, including transport, treatment and litter collection. The same goes for producers of fishing gear containing plastic, who will need to contribute to meeting the recycling target.

Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE), rapporteur, said: “Europe is only responsible for a small part of the plastic polluting our oceans. It can and should, however, be a key player in finding a solution, leading at a global level, as it has done in the past in the fight against climate change. Prohibit, reduce, tax, but also replace, warn; the member states have many options to choose from. It is up to them to choose wisely and up to us to keep pushing for more. “

Next steps

The report will be put to a vote by the full House during its 22-25 October plenary session in Strasbourg.

Background

According to the European Commission, more than 80% of marine litter is plastics. Together they constitute 70% of all marine litter items. Due to its slow decomposition, plastic accumulates in seas, oceans and on beaches in the EU and worldwide. Plastic residue is found in marine species – such as sea turtles, seals, whales and birds, but also in fish and shellfish, and therefore in the human food chain.

While plastics are a convenient, adaptable, useful and economically valuable material, they need to be better used, re-used and recycled. When littered, the economic impact of plastics encompasses not just the lost economic value in the material, but also the costs of cleaning up and losses for tourism, fisheries and shipping.

Circular economy

How the EU wants to achieve a circular economy by 2050

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Find out about the EU’s circular economy action plan and what additional measures MEPs want to reduce waste and make products more sustainable. If we keep on exploiting resources as we do now, by 2050 we would need the resources of three Earths. Finite resources and climate issues require moving from a ‘take-make-dispose’ society to a carbon-neutral, environmentally sustainable, toxic-free and fully circular economy by 2050, Society.

The current crisis highlighted weaknesses in resource and value chains, hitting SMEs and industry. A circular economy will cut CO2-emissions, whilst stimulating economic growth and creating job opportunities.

Read more about the definition and benefits of the circular economy.

The EU circular economy action plan

In line with EU’s 2050 climate neutrality goal under the Green Deal, the European Commission proposed a new Circular Economy Action Plan in March 2020, focusing on waste prevention and management and aimed at boosting growth, competitiveness and EU global leadership in the field.

The Parliament called for tighter recycling rules and binding 2030 targets for materials use and consumption in a resolution adopted on 9 February 2021.

Moving to sustainable products

To achieve an EU market of sustainable, climate-neutral and resource-efficient products, the Commission proposes extending the Ecodesign Directive to non-energy-related products. MEPs want the new rules to be in place in 2021.

MEPs also back initiatives to fight planned obsolescence, improve the durability and reparability of products and to strengthen consumer rights with the right to repair. They insist consumers have the right to be properly informed about the environmental impact of the products and services they buy and asked the Commission to make proposals to fight so-called greenwashing, when companies present themselves as being more environmentally-friendly than they really are.

Making crucial sectors circular

Circularity and sustainability must be incorporated in all stages of a value chain to achieve a fully circular economy: from design to production and all the way to the consumer. The Commission action plan sets down seven key areas essential to achieving a circular economy: plastics; textiles; e-waste; food, water and nutrients; packaging; batteries and vehicles; buildings and construction.

Plastics

MEPs back the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, which would phase out the use of microplastics.

Read more about the EU strategy to reduce plastic waste.

Textiles

Textiles use a lot of raw materials and water, with less than 1% recycled. MEPs want new measures against microfiber loss and stricter standards on water use.

Discover how the textile production and waste affects the environment.

Electronics and ICT

Electronic and electrical waste, or e-waste, is the fastest growing waste stream in the EU and less than 40% is recycled. MEPs want the EU to promote longer product life through reusability and reparability.

Learn some E-waste facts and figures.

Food, water and nutrients

An estimated 20% of food is lost or wasted in the EU. MEPs urge the halving of food waste by 2030 under the Farm to Fork Strategy.

Packaging

Packaging waste in Europe reached a record high in 2017. New rules aim to ensure that all packaging on the EU market is economically reusable or recyclable by 2030.

Batteries and vehicles

MEPs are looking at proposals requiring the production and materials of all batteries on the EU market to have a low carbon footprint and respect human rights, social and ecological standards.

Construction and buildings

Construction accounts for more than 35% of total EU waste. MEPs want to increase the lifespan of buildings, set reduction targets for the carbon footprint of materials and establish minimum requirements on resource and energy efficiency.

Waste management and shipment

The EU generates more than 2.5 billion tonnes of waste a year, mainly from households. MEPs urge EU countries to increase high-quality recycling, move away from landfilling and minimise incineration.

Find out about landfilling and recycling statistics in the EU.

Find out more 

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Circular economy

Parliament aims for carbon-neutral, sustainable, toxic-free and fully circular economy

EU Reporter Correspondent

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MEPs call for binding 2030 targets for materials use and consumption footprint ©AdobeStock_Fotoschlick  

Parliament adopted comprehensive policy recommendations to achieve a carbon-neutral, sustainable, toxic-free and fully circular economy by 2050 at the latest. The report, adopted today (10 February) with 574 votes in favour, 22 against and 95 abstentions, is a response to the Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan. Binding 2030 targets are needed for materials use and our consumption footprint, covering the whole lifecycle of each product category placed on the EU market, MEPs stress. They also call on the Commission to propose product-specific and/or sector-specific binding targets for recycled content.

Parliament urges the Commission to put forward new legislation in 2021, broadening the scope of the Ecodesign Directive to include non-energy-related products. This should set product-specific standards, so that products placed on the EU market perform well, are durable, reusable, can be easily repaired, are not toxic, can be upgraded and recycled, contain recycled content, and are resource- and energy-efficient. Other key recommendations are detailed here.

Rapporteur Jan Huitema (Renew Europe, NL) said: “The transition to a circular economy is an economic opportunity for Europe that we should embrace. Europe is not a resource-rich continent, but we have the skills, the expertise and the ability to innovate and develop the technologies needed to close loops and build a waste-free society. This will create jobs and economic growth and bring us closer to reaching our climate goals: It’s a win-win.” Watch video statement.

In the plenary debate, MEPs also emphasised that achieving the Green Deal objectives will only be possible if the EU switches to a circular economy model, and that this change will create new jobs and business opportunities. Existing legislation on waste must be implemented more thoroughly, and further measures are needed for key sectors and products, such as textiles, plastics, packaging and electronics, MEPs added. Watch the full recording of the debate here.

Context

In March 2020, the Commission adopted a new “Circular Economy Action Plan for a Cleaner and More Competitive Europe”. A debate in the Environment Committee took place in October 2020, and the report was adopted on 27 January 2021.

Up to 80% of the environmental impact of products is determined at the design phase. The global consumption of materials is expected to double in the next forty years, while the amount of waste generated every year is projected to increase by 70% by 2050. Half of total greenhouse gas emissions, and more than 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress, come from extracting and processing resources.

Continue Reading

Circular economy

How the EU wants to achieve a circular economy by 2050  

EU Reporter Correspondent

Published

on

Find out about the EU’s circular economy action plan and what additional measures MEPs want to reduce waste and make products more sustainable. If we keep on exploiting resources as we do now, by 2050 we would need the resources of three Earths. Finite resources and climate issues require moving from a ‘take-make-dispose’ society to a carbon-neutral, environmentally sustainable, toxic-free and fully circular economy by 2050.

The current crisis highlighted weaknesses in resource and value chains, hitting SMEsandindustry. A circular economy will cut CO2-emissions, whilst stimulating economic growth and creating job opportunities.

Read more about the definition and benefits of the circular economy.

The EU circular economy action plan

In line with EU’s 2050 climate neutrality goal under the Green Deal, the European Commission proposed a new Circular Economy Action Plan in March 2020, focusing on waste prevention and management and aimed at boosting growth, competitiveness and EU global leadership in the field.

On 27 January, Parliament's environment committee backed the plan and called for binding 2030 targets for materials use and consumption. MEPs will vote on the report during the February plenary session.

Moving to sustainable products

To achieve an EU market of sustainable, climate-neutral and resource-efficient products, the Commission proposes extending the Ecodesign Directive to non-energy-related products. MEPs want the new rules to be in place in 2021.

MEPs also back initiatives to fight planned obsolescence, improve the durability and reparability of products and to strengthen consumer rights with the right to repair. They insist consumers have the right to be properly informed about the environmental impact of the products and services they buy and asked the Commission to make proposals to fight so-called greenwashing, when companies present themselves as being more environmentally-friendly than they really are.

Making crucial sectors circular

Circularity and sustainability must be incorporated in all stages of a value chain to achieve a fully circular economy: from design to production and all the way to the consumer. The Commission action plan sets down seven key areas essential to achieving a circular economy: plastics; textiles; e-waste; food, water and nutrients; packaging; batteries and vehicles; buildings and construction.
Plastics

MEPs back the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, which would phase out the use of microplastics.

Read more about the EU strategy to reduce plastic waste.

Textiles

Textiles use a lot of raw materials and water, with less than 1% recycled. MEPs want new measures against microfiber loss and stricter standards on water use.

Discover how the textile production and waste affects the environment.

Electronics and ICT

Electronic and electrical waste, or e-waste, is the fastest growing waste stream in the EU and less than 40% is recycled. MEPs want the EU to promote longer product life through reusability and reparability.

Learn some E-waste facts and figures.

Food, water and nutrients

An estimated 20% of food is lost or wasted in the EU. MEPs urge the halving of food waste by 2030 under the Farm to Fork Strategy.

Packaging

Packaging waste in Europe reached a record high in 2017. New rules aim to ensure that all packaging on the EU market is economically reusable or recyclable by 2030.

Batteries and vehicles

MEPs are looking at proposals requiring the production and materials of all batteries on the EU market to have a low carbon footprint and respect human rights, social and ecological standards.

Construction and buildings

Construction accounts for more than 35% of total EU waste. MEPs want to increase the lifespan of buildings, set reduction targets for the carbon footprint of materials and establish minimum requirements on resource and energy efficiency.

Waste management and shipment

The EU generates more than 2.5 billion tonnes of waste a year, mainly from households. MEPs urge EU countries to increase high-quality recycling, move away from landfilling and minimise incineration.

Find out about landfilling and recycling statistics in the EU.

Continue Reading

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