marine litter
© Christoph Lischetzki |

The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have reached a provisional agreement on the new measures proposed to tackle marine litter

Today’s agreement is based on the Single-use plastics proposal presented in May by the Commission as part of the world’s first comprehensive Plastics Strategy, adopted earlier this year, to protect citizens and the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation.

The new rules contribute to a broader effort of turning Europe into a more sustainable, circular economy, reflected in the Circular Economy Action Plan adopted in December 2015. They will place Europe’s businesses and consumers ahead as a world leader in producing and using sustainable alternatives that avoid marine litter and oceans pollution, tackling a problem with global implications.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development said: “I warmly welcome today’s ambitious agreement reached on our Commission proposal to reduce single-use plastics. This agreement truly helps protect our people and our planet. Europeans are conscious that plastic waste is an enormous problem and the EU as a whole has shown true courage in addressing it, making us the global leader in tackling plastic marine litter.

“Equally important is, that with the solutions agreed upon today, we are also driving a new circular business model and showing the way forward to putting our economy on a more sustainable path.”

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, added: “Tackling the plastics problem is a must. At the same time, it brings new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation. We will discuss those thoroughly with industry within the Circular Plastics Alliance. With the agreement reached today we are showing that Europe is doing a smart economic and environmental choice and is advancing towards a new truly circular plastics economy.” 

Commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, Karmenu Vella said: “When we have a situation where one year you can bring your fish home in a plastic bag, and the next year you are bringing that bag home in a fish, we have to work hard and work fast. So I am happy that with the agreement of today between Parliament and Council. We have taken a big stride towards reducing the amount of single-use plastic items in our economy, our ocean and ultimately our bodies.”

Different measures for different products

The new EU directive on Single-Use Plastics will be the most ambitious legal instrument at a global level addressing marine litter. It envisages different measures to apply to different product categories. Where alternatives are easily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market, such as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, sticks for balloons, products made of oxo-degradable plastic and food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene.

For other products, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; on design and labelling requirements; and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers.

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