Say goodbye to plastic waste, says EU

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The European Commission announced yesterday new EU-wide rules to reduce the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas.

EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans said that plastic cutlery would not be banned completely, but steps would be taken to have them made of sustainable materials when possible.

Under the Commission's proposal, member states will have to collect 90% of single-use plastic drink bottles by 2025, while products including sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons will have standardised labelling indicating how they should be disposed and their environmental impact. Other products, such as food containers made with plastics, or plastic bottles, will see their usage reduced.

Measures range from outright bans on single-use plastic items to producer obligations, labelling requirements and national reduction and collection targets, with €100 million (£87 million) to be devoted to financing these actions between now and 2020.

For products without a straightforward alternative - including food containers and packaging (i.e. chip bags and candy bars), cigarette butts, wet wipes, balloons and lightweight plastic bags - the plan is to limit their use with reduction targets and push manufacturers to stem pollution of their products. However, only limited measures around consumer awareness of re-use, waste management options and marine litter impact have been introduced to attempt to curb the amount of abandoned nets at sea. They also believe that the new rules will create around 30,000 new jobs.

Alternatives to these banned plastic items will need to become available at costs that work for the market.

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The EU is hoping that the move to phase-out the use of plastics and other unsustainable practices can usher in a new type of economic model which prioritises reuse and recycling.

That decision entered into force, it must support all members of the European Union, and then it approves the European Parliament.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said businesses will benefit from one set of rules for an EU market of around 500 million people.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Commission said that with the EU's economy bouncing back, it was proposing to modernise Cohesion Policy - the EU's main investment policy.

New research done by campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) said that industry interests had monopolised too much of the Commission's time during the build-up to the release of the Plastics Strategy in January.

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