The European Union is moving closer to banning 10 single-use plastic products in a move to reduce marine litter.
Where alternatives are easily available, a directive from the Council of the European Union bans items that are most often found on European beaches, including plastic cutlery, plates, straws and cotton swabs as well as abandoned fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics.
For other products, the focus of the directive is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption, on design and labelling requirements,and waste management and clean-up obligations for producers.
The May 21 decision by the Council will be followed by the publication of the texts in the Official Journal of the European Union.
The directive will go into place 20 days after the publication. Member states will then have two years to write the legislation into their national law.
Directives outline certain results that must be achieved, but each EU member state has the freedom to decide how to add them into their own law.
"There is a growing sense of urgency in European society to do whatever it takes to stop plastic pollution in our oceans. The European Union is responding to this clear call of our citizens," said First Vice President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development.
The new rules, Timmermans said, will help promote more sustainable production and consumption.
"We can all be proud that Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world," he added.
To achieve the targets of the directive, Vice President Jyrki Katainen, said more recycling of plastics was needed.
"More innovative and sustainable ways of production will bring new opportunities for European businesses, increasing their competitiveness, growth and job creation," he added.
According to Karmenu Vella, EU commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, the legislation will address 70 percent of marine litter items, "avoiding environmental damage that would otherwise cost 22 billion euros ($) by 2030."
The single-use plastic directive, proposed by the European Commission in 2018, has differentiated dates for transposition concerning certain measures:
The bans and the marking obligations will have to be implemented two years after the entering into force.
In terms of product design, all beverage containers up to 3 litres will have mandatory tethered caps by five years after the entry into force of the directive.
The additional obligations for extended responsibility of producers will have to be implemented between January 2023 and the end of 2024, depending on the product.