The European Parliament has overwhelmingly backed legislation to cull a range of single-use plastics with readily available alternatives, by 2021.
In a proposed directive passed by 571 votes to 53, the wide-ranging legislation could see items such as plastic straws, cotton swabs, disposable plastic plates and cutlery banned throughout EU member states by 2021.
Described as 'a clampdown on the most common plastic products' that end up in the marine environment, member states will have to individually back the directive before it is passed by law. But Karmenu Vella, the EU environment commissioner remained confident the action would be implemented by the end of the year.
'Today we are one step closer to eliminating the most problematic single-use plastic products in Europe,' he said. 'It sends a clear signal that Europe is ready to take decisive, coordinated action to curb plastic waste and to lead international efforts to make our oceans plastic-free.”
'These new measures will slash the use of single-use plastics in the EU. We hope to have a vote in the European council in November and if all goes well, we could have it in law by the end of the year.'
In the directive, EU states would be also obliged to recycle 90 per cent of plastic bottles by 2025 and producers to help cover costs of waste management.
Jayne Paramor, deputy director of Boomerang Alliance, welcomed the announcement.
'This represents a fantastic show of leadership by taking robust measure to combat the growing problems associated with plastic pollution,' she said. 'Coming on the heels of research highlighting the widespread presence of microplastics in human stool samples, the decision sets a strong precedent for global action.
'The EU’s approach targets the top of the waste hierarchy through prevention and minimisation and signals a positive move towards actually reducing the amount of plastic going into the system.'
Jayne also remarked how the directive highlights the need for Australia to quickly follow suit and introduce similar federal measures.
'Australian governments should learn lessons from their European counterparts on how to make simple yet impactful changes, particularly across the consumer sector,' she said.