Plastic straws: the European Union is ready to ban its use | Photo: McEachan/Creative Commons

The European Commission proposed a set of rules that will ban and dramatically reduce the use of single-use plastics in the 28 member states of the European Union (EU).

The executive arm of the EU is ready to target the ten single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's seas and beaches which constitute 70 percent of all marine litter items.

The Commission's proposals aim to put Europe ahead of the curve on an issue with planetary implications.

The new rules will be presented to the European Parliament and Council for adoption. Abandoned and lost fishing gear are also a major concern because they account for 7% percent of all beach litter.

So what is expected to change in the Old Continent?

The European Union will immediately ban plastic straws and stirrers, cotton buds, plates, and cutlery. Single-use drinks containers made of plastic will only be allowed if their caps and lids remain attached.

Member states will also have to reduce the use of plastic drinks cups, and food containers, and make sure they are not provided free of charge.

Plastic producers will be forced to help cover the costs of clean-up and waste management and must raise awareness for the problems caused by other plastic products like wet wipes, cigarette filters, balloons, packets and wrappers, and lightweight plastic bags.

By 2025, all EU nations will be obliged to collect 90 percent of single-use plastic drinks bottles through, for example, deposit refund schemes.

The EU will also force plastic companies to adopt standardized labeling that the negative environmental impact of the item, indicates how waste should be disposed, and the presence of plastics in the products.

If approved, the European Commission believes that the rules will reduce littering by more than half of the top 10 single-use plastic items, avoiding the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030.

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