Plastic pollution in the ocean. According to the Ocean Conservancy, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter the world's oceans each year. File Photo by Rich Carey/Shutterstock
Oct. 24 (UPI) -- It is the last straw for single-use plastic items in Europe as European Parliament officials adopted a plan Wednesday to ban such items in participating countries by 2021.
The European Parliament said in a statement that plastic items like plates, cutlery, straws, cotton swabs, etc. make up more than 70 percent of the marine trash in oceans and other waterways. The parliament's new measure would also go after products made of oxo-degradable plastics, which include bags, packaging and fast food containers made from polystyrene.
"We have adopted the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics," Frédérique Ries, a Belgian politician and European Parliament member who drafted the proposal, said in a statement. "It is up to us now to stay the course in the upcoming negotiations with the council, due to start as early as November.
"Today's vote paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive. It is essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe, estimated at 22 billion euros by 2030," she added.
The parliament statement said member nations will create plans to reduce other single-use items not made of plastic by at least 25 percent by 2025, including sandwich boxes, as well as food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts, and ice cream.
According to the Ocean Conservancy, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter the world's oceans each year and more than 150 million metric tons have already been deposited in the marine environment.
The organization says plastic can now be found in 60 percent of all seabirds and virtually all sea turtles because they mistake the plastic for food.
There has been opposition to such "ban plastics" movements, particularly in the United States. In July, the Hawaii Food Industry Association, the Hawaii Restaurant Association, the Retail Merchants Association and the American Chemistry Council, came together to fight a measure in the state to ban plastic straws.
"Recycling, source reduction, recovery, and conservation are all tools to help reduce litter/disposal," American Chemical Council senior director Tim Shestek told Pew's Stateline.org about that measure. "In this particular instance, we think an 'on demand' approach makes the most sense."