In the last few years, more and more people have become concerned about the amount of plastic pollution that has made its way into the natural environment. In our oceans, this plastic manifests as gigantic islands of trash that kill marine animals and are even finding their way back into the human food chain.
Last month, the European parliament overwhelmingly voted to approve a comprehensive ban on single-use plastics by 2021. The proposal passed with 571 in favor and 53 in opposition. The ban sought to stop production of the top 10 plastic products that end up in the ocean and would eliminate items like cotton swabs, plastic cutlery, and plastic straws.
The UK is considering a similar action in conjunction with the European Union.
Not only would the above items be banned, but manufacturers of these single use plastics would bear the cost of cleaning up plastic pollution that they helped create. The legislation also demands that EU states must collect 90% of single-use plastic bottles by 2025 and recycle them through new recycling programs.
Worldwide, only about 14% of plastics are properly disposed of through a sustainable recycling program. Reuse rates are also low. Concerns from scientists that the ocean would have more plastic than fish by weight by 2050 was alarming to European policy makers, which compelled them to action.
The decision is being applauded by environmental groups, though to some it does fall short. The ban does not include reducing the use of plastic cups and food containers which are not always recyclable. Even though it didn’t go far enough in their view, the Rethink Plastic Alliance calls it “a leap forward in tackling plastic pollution.”
There are a number of things that we can do in our personal lives to help in the fight against plastic pollution, like saying no to single-use plastics, buying items in bulk, bringing your own takeout container, and and simply using non-plastic containers.