“Three years after the EU called for a ban on single-use plastic … what has changed? “
This article is part of Yahoo “On this day” series
“By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans,” warned a MEP as the European Parliament debated a total ban on a range of single-use plastics.
Three years ago today, on October 24, 2018, the European Parliament voted for a total ban on plastic cutlery, cotton swabs, straws, drink stirrers and plates.
The law (entered into force in July 2021) also sets recycling targets for plastic bottles with a target of 77% collection by 2025, rising to 90% by 2029.
In the UK, separate measures banned plastic straws and stirrers and cotton swabs with plastic rods in October 2020.
Before the ban, the UK used 4.7 billion plastic straws per year and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton swabs.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “We are already a world leader in this global effort. Our 5p charge on single-use plastic bags has managed to reduce sales by 95% in major supermarkets, we have banned microbeads and we are preparing a deposit system to boost recycling of single-use beverage containers . ‘
Others begged to defer Britain’s position as a “leader” in the fight against plastic pollution.
Will McCallum, Greenpeace UK, said: “Banning disposable plastic items like plates and cutlery is a welcome move, but the UK government is just catching up with the EU.
“After years of talking about being a world leader in this field, the UK government has successfully cracked down on a total of four single-use plastic and microplastic items. This piecemeal approach is not leadership.
Further measures will ban single-use plastic plates and cutlery in the UK after a public consultation in autumn 2021 – and a plastic packaging tax will come into force in April 2022.
Bangladesh became the first country to ban plastic bags in 2002, after flooding linked to plastic waste.
More than 80 countries have since followed suit, with Kenya adopting what has been described as the ‘world’s toughest’ plastic ban, after flooding linked to plastic bags and research that showed that half some cattle had bags in their stomachs.
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Campaigns to ban plastic have gained momentum after high-profile TV series such as Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet TV series, which aired an episode in 2017 showing an albatross giving plastic to its chicks.
Disposable polyethylene bags were not patented until 1965 and became widespread in the 1980s.
Bags and bottles are spreading around the world as part of disposable and waste-heavy “Western” lifestyles.
The world produces more than 380 million tonnes of plastic annually, up to 50% of which is single-use.
An estimated 10 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the oceans each year, according to Plastic Oceans.
Watch: How microplastics pollute the environment