Plastics – it has always been a part of our life. No matter if it’s the plastic mug that you love so much or plastic pot made out of titanium dioxide in Malaysia, plastic has made our life easy and convenient. However, our mother Earth is now drowning in a sea of single-use plastics products – fishes and sea creatures tangled in plastic bags, the atmosphere slowly depleting due to open plastic burning. As the situation worsened, many countries had started initiatives and campaigns to solve this alarming problem in our environment.
One of them is the European Union. Currently, the EU is focusing on reducing 10 single-use plastic products that are commonly found on the shores and beaches of Europe as well as promoting eco-friendly alternatives to these products.
First thing first. What are single-use plastics? Single-use plastic products (SUPs) or also known as disposable plastics are plastics products that are designed for singular use in a short period of time, before being disposed of. These plastics are first invented for the convenience of humans in all types of activities such as carrying things, drinking water or even eating food. Examples are plastic bags, coffee stirrers, water bottles, food packaging and straws.
While it’s great for parties and events, the impact of these plastic waste on our nature as well as our health is drastic. Each year, nearly 300 million tons of plastic are produced. However, only 10% to 13% of plastic products are recycled worldwide. It is difficult and expensive to recycle these single-use plastics as it is made with a petroleum based and new virgin chemicals have to be added in order to properly dispose of them. As it is not biodegradable, they are more likely to end up in landfills or wash up in our seas than being recycled or responsibly disposed of. While plastic may not decompose, it will break down into tiny particles after many years – which would release toxic chemicals which poisons marine life as well as humans.
EU’s Directive on Single-Use Plastic
According to the European Union, they are looking forward to becoming one of the leaders in the fight against marine pollution and plastic pollution. Through its campaign, it aims to reduce the amount and impact of the most used and common plastic products on the environment. These 10 types of single-use plastic products that are targeted includes:
- Beverage cups
- Beverage containers
- Food containers
- Cutlery, plates, straws and stirrers
- Plastic bags
- Cotton bud sticks
- Packets and Wrappers
- Cigarette buds
- Balloons and balloon sticks
- Wet wipes and sanitary items
For each type of single-use plastics products listed, different measures will be implemented. Each measure would be tailored and proportionate to achieve the best possible results in reducing their impact on the environment and also introduce more sustainable alternatives that are available.
Enforcement of law pertaining to selling of single-use plastic is also implemented in this campaign. Single-use plastic products cannot be placed on the markets of any EU Member States if sustainable alternatives are affordable and available in these locations.
For other types of single-use products, the campaign is also implementing tactics and strategies on limiting their usage among users through a series of methods. One of the tactics includes awareness campaigns and tactics about plastic pollution in order to reduce consumption and usage among citizens. The campaign also introduced design requirements and labelling requirements among plastic manufacturers. For instance, consumers would be informed about the plastic composition of the products, disposal options that are encouraged and the harmful effect of these products on the environment if littered. The campaign will also introduce waste management and clean-up obligations for manufacturers such as the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) plans.
It is reported that the EU’s campaign is targeting a 77% separate collection for plastic bottles by the year of 2025 and increasing the percentage to 90% by the year 2029. It is also looking forward to incorporating 25% of recycled plastic in PET beverage bottles from the year 2025 and slowly incorporating 30% in all plastic beverage bottles from 2030.
We cannot just rely on global organizations or the government to implement new regulations and laws to combat this alarming and worsening issue. As a fellow mankind, we must also protect our environment and nature on our own accord by using sustainable alternatives and living eco-friendly lifestyles.