In the early hours of Wednesday the 19th of December, (after 6 months of discussions and a final long night of negotiations) the European Union reached a landmark agreement to tackle plastic pollution in our rivers, beaches and ocean. The agreed rules target the top items found on European beaches and make the EU the first region to adopt an ambitious panel of measures, including bans, to cut single-use plastics.
A huge victory for Surfrider after more than 10 years campaigning
Single-use plastics, such as coffee cups and bottles, are used only for a very short period of time, few minutes often, but can persist in and harm our environment for centuries. They largely contribute to marine pollution, 80% of which is estimated to be plastic.
Through the Ocean Initiatives program and single use plastic campaigns such as “Ban the Bag” or “Reset your habits”, Surfrider Europe sensitizes thousands of people every year to plastic pollution, and more specifically on single-use plastics, providing alternatives to reduce or iliminate their consumption.
Surfrider Foundation Europe has also monitored the amount of single-use plastic on beaches and in the ocean for decades and has largely contributed to the increased awareness amongst citizens and decision-makers on this issue, creating the conditions for these new ambitious rules to be adopted.
Today we are very proud to see that all the work that our teams, volunteers and friends have done from the ground to the highest European institutions throughout the years has finally paid off.
A landmark agreement on crucial points
The agreement found between the European Parliament, the Council (EU governments) and the European Commission includes bans of single use plastic cutlery and plates, straws, stirrers, cotton bud sticks and balloon sticks. It also bans food containers and cups made of expanded polystyrene, and oxodegradable plastics, which are particularly harmful for the environment. Those bans will apply across the EU from 2021.
For plastic bottles, a “serial polluter” of our beaches and ocean, several new rules were adopted: the bottles will have to have their cap attached and contain 30% recycled content, and 90% of the bottles will have to be collected separately by 2029, for example through the establishment of deposit return system that Surfrider Foundation Europe has been calling for.
Also, the new laws aim to hold producers of single-use plastics, cigarettes, and fishing gear accountable for the environmental impacts of their products by requiring them to cover the costs of waste management, clean-up and awareness-raising efforts. This measure should motivate producers to change the design of their products to become more sustainable.
SFE warmly welcomes the EU rules adopted today, which are a great step forward in the fight against plastic pollution, but warns that they will only have a great impact if they are fully implemented by EU governments and suplemented with the development of reusable alternatives, changes in behaviou, production, and consumption patterns.