Last year, Nearly 200 countries signed a U.N. resolution to eliminate plastic pollution in the sea. As part of this agreement, all the involved countries (members of the U.N.) accept the task of monitoring the amount of plastic they put into the ocean. Some delegates greatly hoped this would pave the way to a legally binding treaty.
“While this is not a treaty, significant progress is being made … 39 governments announced new commitments to reduce the amount of plastic going into the sea,” said the chief of public advocacy at UNEP, Sam Barrat.
This year we have begun to see the efforts from various nations taking effect. One in specific is the EU’s approved wide-ranging ban on single-use plastic. On October 24, 2018, the European Parliament gathered to approve this legislation. The votes proved an overwhelming win for the ban, a sweeping majority of 571-53. The Belgium Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Frédérique Ries, who drafted the bill, called the moment “a victory for our oceans, for the environment and for future generations.”
Frédérique Ries said, “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.”
The ban will eliminate 10 commonly used single-use plastic products by 2021. These items are unnecessary because there exists a replaceable “green” option. These items make up 70% of ocean litter; they include, plastic cutlery, plates, straws, cotton buds, drink stirrers, and balloon sticks.
Under the legislation, the following goals also must be met by 2025:
- EU states are required to recycle 90% of plastic bottles. This shouldn’t be too difficult seeing as Europe currently recycles about 57 percent of plastic bottles. Nevertheless, bottles and lids still make up 20 percent of plastic marine pollution, according to research done by the European Union.
- Reduction targets for plastic items that don’t currently have replacements, such as burger boxes and sandwich wrappers. Member countries are expected to reduce such products by 25 percent.
- Limit the use of tobacco filters in cigarettes made of plastic. Pollution from tobacco filters is a significant source of marine pollution because it is the most littered single-use plastic item there is. A reduction of this product by 50 percent (and 80 percent by 2030) is required.
At the moment, about 150,000 tons of plastic are being thrown into the European oceans each year. This legislation will drastically reduce the number. The targets and goals of the ban are extraordinarily pioneering feats. Ideally, they will encourage many more countries to do the same.
The protection of our planet requires the combined efforts of governments, citizens, and private companies. More nations must take the step to pass plastic banning legislation as the EU has. It will ensure clean oceans and a better future for us and our planet.