The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have reached a provisional political agreement on the ambitious new measures proposed by the European Commission to tackle marine litter at its source, targeting the 10 plastic products most often found on beaches, as well as abandoned fishing gear.
The agreement, reached Dec. 19, is based on the single-use plastics proposal presented in May by the EC as part of the European Plastics Strategy, adopted earlier this year.
The new EU directive has been billed as “the most ambitious legal instrument” addressing marine litter.
As part of the directive, where alternatives are easily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market, such as plastic cotton swabs, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, sticks for balloons, products made of oxodegradable plastic and food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene. For other products, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; on design and labeling requirements; and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers.
The new rules contribute to a broader effort of turning Europe into a more sustainable, circular economy, reflected in the Circular Economy Action Plan adopted in December 2015.
"I warmly welcome today's ambitious agreement reached on our Commission proposal to reduce single use plastics. This agreement truly helps protect our people and our planet,” Frans Timmermans, EC first vice-president responsible for sustainable development, said.
The provisional agreement must now be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council. Following its approval, the new directive will be published in the EU's Official Journal and the member states will have to transpose it after two years.