The EU Parliament agrees on “victory for our oceans”

On Wednesday, October 24, the European Parliament decided to follow through with the ban of single use plastics with 571 to 53 votes. This new law should be implemented from 2021 on. From 2025 on EU member states should commit to recycling 90% of plastic bottles. MEP Frédérique Ries called the result “a victory for our oceans”, as well as for the environment and future generations. Together we will try to have a look at the nature of the proposal and the way it needs to become a true victory for all of mother earth.

First, it is important to know that after this vote the member states still have to agree on the specifics of the new law. In this process there is always the risk of laws being watered down to the smallest common will. Second, the law is supposed to tackle only those single-use plastics that already have a non-plastic substitution or plastic alternatives that are not meant for one use. An example here would be straws made from thin plastic, that could already be substituted with straws made from paper or thicker plastic for multiple usage. This gives little incentives for alternative developments in the industry. Instead of demanding a progressive change of products, it allows for a “carry on as usual” mindset. It means that companies can wait till others develop the alternatives for them before adopting their products. As we have learned from the emission scandals in the car industry, international companies prefer to wait as long as possible and even longer till only upgrading their products to new regulations. Hence, our doubt about the supposed massive impact for future generations.

On the other hand are the products that EU has its eyes on do indeed have already great alternatives. These include food containers, straws, cutlery, plates, cups, straws and sticks for balloons. The coverage of the proposal brings the existence of alternatives to the attention of the public. Our first media review on the topic has shown that actually little news was published about the alternatives. However, do we hope that the awareness about our daily plastic products increases in the EU and beyond and that the legislation of other countries follows this small step in the near future.

For those who already want to get used to how life will be after the regulations are implemented, we suggest to start using the alternative products right away. Here we have some suggestions:

  • Tell the waiter to leave the straw. If you do desire a drink that absolutely has to be enjoyed with a straw, then use one made from paper or keep metal or hard plastic straws at home that can be washed and reused.
  • If you are out on a pick-nick or barbecue you can bring your plates cutlery and cups from home. You actually save money if you just wrap them up again afterwards and wash them at home, instead of buying them for one single use every time again. If you really need to buy them for just one event and will not be able to reuse them, just chose products made from paper.
  • With regard to food containers, there is the same simple answer. Make sure that your favorite place for take away food uses containers made from paper. Each and every person can take the spread of alternative products in her or his own hands and raise the awareness of them at the favorite restaurant and bar.