Bold single-use plastic ban kicks Europe’s plastic purge into high gear and from 3 July will be governed by the toughest rules in the world.
In Europe, beachgoers have grown accustomed to the dispiriting sight of plastic garbage strewn along shorelines. The Mediterranean Sea is the most defiled of all, with researchers collecting an average of 274 pieces of plastic refuse per 100m of shoreline. And beneath the waves, microplastics have turned coastal waters into toxic “plastic soups.”
In an all-out push to clean up Europe’s beaches - one plank in the European Union’s trailblazing efforts to address the almost 28 million tons of plastic waste it generates annually - a ban comes into effect on 3 July that halts the sale in EU markets of the 10 plastic products that most commonly wash up on the continent’s shores. These include plastic bottle caps, cutlery, straws and plates, as well as Styrofoam food and beverage containers.
The ban is the most visible sign of Europe’s efforts to curtail plastics pollution by creating the world’s first-ever circular plastics regime. By the end of this decade, this will lead to a ban on throwaway plastics, the creation of a comprehensive reuse system for all other plastics, and the establishment of an expansive and potentially lucrative European market for recycled plastics.
A raft of EU measures is now driving investments and innovation toward circular solutions that, according to experts and EU officials, will come to define Europe’s low-carbon economy and enhance its global competitiveness.
Under the EU Plastics Strategy, waste guidelines will overhaul the way plastic products are designed, used and recycled. All plastic packaging on the EU market must be recyclable by 2030.
The measures are the toughest in the world and have already pushed plastic packaging recycling rates in the EU to an all-time high of 41.5 percent - three times that of the United States. The EU has set a target for recycling 50 percent of plastic packaging by 2025, a goal that now looks within reach. And in 2025, a separate collection target of 77 percent will be in place for plastic bottles, increasing to 90 percent by 2029.