Negotiators from the Parliament and Council reached an agreement Wednesday morning on a Commission proposal to cut pollution from throwaway plastic items. This is part of a wider effort to cut plastic waste and reuse resources.
The deal “will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22 billion, which is the cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030,” said Frédérique Ries, the Belgian MEP who shepherded the file through the talks.
After more than 12 hours of talks, EU institutions agreed to ban a wide range of items made of plastic from 2021. These are cotton buds, straws, plates, cutlery, beverage stirrers, balloon sticks, oxo-degradable plastics, and food containers and drinking cups made of expanded polystyrene.
EU countries will also have to cut the use of plastic food containers and cups — but there is no EU-wide target.
For plastic bottles, the most littered item found on European beaches, the EU agreed on a separate collection target of 77 percent by 2025 and 90 percent by 2029.
By 2030, all new bottles will have to include 30 percent of recycled plastics, with an intermediate target of 25 percent by 2025.
Producers of tobacco filters — the second most common piece of litter found on beaches, according to the Commission — will have to pay for waste collection infrastructure of these items through extended producer responsibility schemes.
EU institutions also agreed on separate collection of fishing gear made of plastics — with an obligation for EU countries to monitor collection rates and set national collection targets.
But on other items, EU countries can choose voluntary agreements between industry and authorities instead of binding ones, something NGOs say waters down the original proposal.
Yet overall campaigners welcomed the deal.
“The EU deserves praise for being the first region to introduce new laws to reduce single-use plastics and slash plastic pollution in our fields, rivers and oceans,” said Meadhbh Bolger, a campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe on behalf of the NGO alliance Rethink Plastic.
EU deputy ambassadors will have to confirm the deal, and then the file will be endorsed by Parliament and Council.