Europe takes the biggest step forward in its history in the struggle to prevent millions of tons of plastic from reaching the oceans. The European Parliament yesterday approved the directive that prohibits from 2021 the sale of various disposable products. This means that they will disappear from the shelves of the supermarket covered, glasses, plates, cotton swabs, expanded polystyrene containers such as those used in fast food boxes, containers for drinks, glasses, balloons sticks and those others with which they are removed the hot drinks.
The decision was expected. MEPs welcomed the rule by an overwhelming majority of 560 votes in favor, 35 against, and 28 abstentions. His critics, minority, warned during the debate prior to the vote on the coup that the ban is for companies in the sector, forced by law to stop producing millions of products. And they recalled that the community measure will not change much on a planetary scale, given that the majority of discharges occur in Asia, with the booming Chinese economy in the lead.
The vice-president of the European Commission, the socialist Frans Timmermans, believes instead that the restriction will encourage innovation and create employment. He expects that new companies will be born that will commercialize the alternatives to the prohibited products, now made of other materials, as is already the case with straws made of metal. And he refuted the most reticent remembering that the size of the community market, of more than 500 million consumers, will influence manufacturers from outside the continent, forced to comply with EU regulations if they want to access that juicy cake.
The directive also imposes new duties on European partners: States must guarantee before 2029 that at least 25% of the plastic of the bottles comes from recycled material, 30% in 2030, and will be responsible for collecting the 90 % of all used.
The law will oblige tobacco companies to assume the cost of cleaning cigarette butts, the second single-use plastic article more present on the beaches of the EU. The same will happen with fishing gear manufacturers. The objective is to make those who pollute pay. In addition, at a time when consumers are increasingly concerned about the content of what they buy, manufacturers of wet wipes, compresses or cigarettes with plastic filters will have to include warnings on their environmental impact on their labels. "A cigarette butt thrown into the sea contaminates between 500 and 1,000 liters of water," said MEP Fréderique Ries, rapporteur of the document.
The liberal MEPs figure in 22,000 million euros the money that will be saved by the EU countries to eliminate all that pollution. The environmental entities celebrated the path taken by the EU. According to the European Commission, more than 80% of the garbage found in the sea is plastic. And products banned since 2021 make up 70% of all those wastes that accumulate due to its slow decomposition process. The risks to human health are one of the great concerns; Turtles, seals, whales, birds, fish and seafood ingest part of that huge amount of plastics, which ends up entering the human body through the food chain.
The MEPs recalled during the debate the clamor of young people who have taken to the streets to demand actions to stop the deterioration of the planet. The symptoms that a change of habits is underway are obvious. A week ago, the Gibraltarian government announced the prohibition of releasing helium balloons into the air, a very common gesture years ago in the national holiday, when 30,000 of them, with the colors white and red of the flag, were lost in the sky of the Rock. After floating for hours, their final destination are soils, oceans, lakes and rivers. The same happens increasingly in many Dutch municipalities. According to a study by the Nordzee Foundation, in just one year the number of localities that prevent the release of balloons in celebrations has tripled. The reason is called plastic, a material that in recent times has acquired rank of cursed for its ability to poison the seas and against which Europe has been conjured.