In October, the European Parliament approved a ban on single-use plastics across Europe by 2021. The proposal bans 10 single-use plastics that most frequently end up in the ocean, as well as oxo-degradable plastics, such as bags or fast-food container packaging. The banned single-use plastics include straws, plates, cutlery, drink stirrers and cotton bud sticks. It was approved on a vote of 571 to 53 by the Parliament. It will now enter into negotiations with the European Council of government ministers for the 28 member states, who are expected to make a final decision on the legislation by December 16.

For other plastics such as single-use burger and sandwich boxes that currently don’t have alternatives, the target is to reduce usage by at least 25 per cent by 2025. Another goal is to recycle 90 per cent of beverage bottles and require member states to achieve a ‘significant reduction’ in the consumption of food containers and drinks cups. As per Frédérique Ries, member of the European Parliament who drafted the bill, the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe will be 22 billion euros by 2030. Marine litter also costs the EU economy an estimated €259 million to €695 million per year, aside from the environmental impact.

The reduction of marine litter was one of the main targets of the 7th Environment Action Programme adopted by the EU in 2013. A study found that plastics make up 80 to 85 per cent of marine litter on European beaches, a major threat to marine and coastal biodiversity. A 2015 report by the European Environment Agency noted that most of the plastic in oceans originates from land-based sources.

Single-use plastics are rapidly running out of favour in many countries and companies. In June, McDonald’s announced that it would phase out plastic straws in its 1,361 restaurants in Britain, while Starbucks will phase out plastic straws from its stores worldwide by 2020.