The European Commission presented the initiatives it intends to take to reduce plastic waste. These include a ban on landfilling, strengthen recycling targets, and a proposal to be released in two weeks on limiting single-use plastic bags.

 

The European Commission presented the initiatives it intends to take to reduce plastic waste. These include a ban on landfilling, strengthen recycling targets, and a proposal to be released in two weeks on limiting single-use plastic bags.

Seas At Risk welcomes these policy developments, expected to be completed before the end of term of the current Commission in May next year.

The EU is keen to legislate to ensure that a radical shift towards a circular economy occurs, as laid out in the road map to a resource efficient Europe, and the 7th Environmental Action Plan. The Commission is committed to finding solutions to the problem of our high plastic consumption that increases as GDP increases.

As speaker Helmut Maurer said at the conference “plastic consumption is an illness we need to cure”.

At the conference, the Commission presented some of the outcome of public consultation on the Green Paper on plastic waste and also devoted particular attention to the problem of marine litter. The conference was attended by many researchers, policy makers, industry representatives and NGOs, including Seas At Risk.

The adverse impacts of plastic on the environment, and on our seas in particular, are not a secret. As explained at the conference, 60 animal species on the IUCN red list have been recorded suffering the negative effects of marine litter, and 280 research papers document harmful effects of plastic on marine animals. Researchers also discussed the role of endocrine disrupters, which are often found in plastics, in causing various diseases. They showed evidence of microplastics being ingested by filter feeding marine invertebrates such as the popular food species mussels and Scottish scampis.

“Plastic has so many great qualities; it is versatile, durable, cheap and light. But of course some of those qualities make it “drastic plastic” for our environment and for marine life,” said Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik. […] “So it is time to look carefully at how we use plastic, and particularly what we do to it when we've finished using it. And that is exactly what we are doing.”

Not everything is recyclable but almost everything should be with correct end of life design, and the EC seems to be committed to pushing total resource efficiency. The Commission also aims at creating radical change towards a circular economy, to which biodegradable plastics are not contributing.

Earlier this month, Seas At Risk published two studies made on its behalf and looking into the potential of improving EU legislation in order to prevent marine litter. In particular, one of the studies provides an excellent overview of EU legislation that could have an impact on the amount of waste in the marine environment. The main conclusion is that the basic framework for addressing this environmental problem is in place. However, several short-comings in the existing legislation were identified, most importantly the need for greater ambition in the current requirements and targets.
IEEP Report on Marine litter

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