For the European Union, it was the final straw. Final single-use plastic straw, that is.
The E.U. parliament on Wednesday voted to ban single-use straws as well as single-use plastic cutlery, stirrers, plastic plates and balloon sticks in a move that could lead to a ban on single-use plastics in E.U. member states by 2021. The new laws also say that, by 2025, the content of plastic bottles should be 25 percent recycled.
The United Nations estimates that 800 species are affected by marine debris, up to 80 percent of which is plastic. The new laws came about as a result of increasing concern about water pollution, as well as China’s decision to cease waste processing.
Frans Timmermans, a vice president of the European Commission and champion of the fight on single-use plastics, said: “Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas. We got this, we can do this.”
Plastics weren’t the only products banned — cotton swabs were banned, too. And some other products won’t be banned, but their manufacturers will nevertheless have to make some changes. Packaging for wet wipes, for examples, must now tell potential consumers that the product contains plastic and therefore could be environmentally hazardous.
Single-use straw bans in particular are one popular but controversial way to combat environmental waste. Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban single-use plastic straws — San Francisco followed soon after, as did Washington. And it wasn’t just cities — businesses tossed the straws (from their counters, that is, not into the oceans), too. McDonald’s in Britain and Starbucks also both announced they would be doing away with plastic straws.
But some say that, by focusing on straws, environmental activists are forgetting those with disabilities who rely on plastic straws to, say, hydrate, and have asked that policies pushed make exceptions for those who rely on plastic straws.
In other almost certainly controversial environmental advocacy news, campaigners are pushing for a ban on glitter in Britain. The reason? Most glitter products come from plastic, making it potentially environmentally hazardous in oceans.