Many of the disposable plastic objects present today on the shelves of any supermarket have their days counted in the European Union. The harmony between the institutions to reduce the presence of this material in the daily life of citizens is a fact in front of the ecological problems that it generates, mainly for oceans and marine life. Accepted this, the discussion in Brussels focuses on the speed of its withdrawal and on which products will be affected. In May, The European Commission proposed to prohibit the sale of straws, plates, cutlery and sticks to remove plastic drinks. And he proposed that all of them be replaced by their biodegradable equivalents. Cotton swabs -except for those that are used for medical reasons- are also included in that list of goods destined for extinction.
On Wednesday, MEPs have endorsed the Commission's idea by an overwhelming majority of 571 votes in favor, 53 against and 34 abstentions. And they have gone a step further by adding to the list of items that should disappear from the market sticks to hold balloons, oxo-degradable plastic products and fast food packaging expanded polystyrene. The deadline to stop marketing is already fixed: the year 2021. And the manufacturers will have to pay the cost of cleaning the waste, which if approved would mean that the tobacco companies and the producers of fishing gear with plastic would have to cover the costs of collecting your waste.
But the letter of the new norm is still subject to changes. Once the first parliamentary obstacle has been overcome, the time has come for the Member States to discuss the law. First will be the EU Environment Ministers. And then the negotiation will be developed in three bands between the Twenty-eight, the Parliament and the Commission. The intention is to get ahead before the European elections in May.
The battery of measures goes beyond the prohibition of the main disposable plastic articles. The MEPs have given their approval to requiring European partners to recycle 90% of plastic bottles by 2025, and to have them collected separately. In Spain the rate of recycling of domestic packaging is now 77%, according to data from Ecoembes, the entity in charge of the collection and treatment of these bottles in Spain. In addition, the consumption of other polluting products for which there is no alternative, such as fruit, vegetable or dessert containers, will have to be reduced by at least 25% in 2025. It is established that residues from the plastic filters of cigarettes should reduced by 50% in 2025 and 80% by 2030. The European Parliament estimates that a cigarette butt can contaminate between 500 and 1,000 liters of water and can take up to 12 years to disintegrate.
After this marasmus of figures and restrictions, the EU opens the door to a new model that could change the landscape of many of the beaches and seas besieged by this type of waste. Community forecasts are optimistic about the positive impact of legislative change. According to the European Commission, more than 80% of marine garbage are plastics. And the products that would stop selling in the EU account for 70% of the waste that reaches the sea, with which the reduction would be remarkable. "It is a victory for our oceans, for the environment and for future generations," said Belgian Frédérique Ries, rapporteur of the report. The liberal MEP recalled the great expectations that its use aroused. "It started as a beautiful story, in the mid-50s, plastics were a revolution, but that story is now on the way to becoming a nightmare."
Despite not being definitive, the environmental organizations have described the decision of the European chamber as "historic". The associations have been warning of the existence of plastic trash islands and the damage that its ingestion causes to the turtles and other marine fauna. "European citizenship wants an end to plastic pollution, and now state governments have to comply with this demand and resist the pressure of large corporations interested in continuing to use and throw away," said Alodia Pérez, of Amigos from the earth. Greenpeace has urged the states to follow the guidelines of the European Parliament, although it has regretted that the light bags of the agreement between the parties have been excluded.
Brussels considers that the propagation of plastic garbage can have harmful effects for human health, given its presence in some foods, as well as for fishing and tourism. Estimates by the European Commission estimate that if the directive is approved, the emission of 3.4 million tons of carbon dioxide would be halted. And the saving in environmental damages in the Twenty-eight would rise to 22,000 million euros between now and 2030.