Germany has finally announced a nationwide ban on single-use plastic products.
In March 2019, the European Parliament approved a law that would ban the use of single-use plastics all across the European Union, sparking the ‘Single-Use Plastics Directive’, intended to reduce critical waste and pollution in member states.
In line with this mission, this week the German Cabinet announced that single-use plastic cutlery, plates, plastic straws, cotton bud sticks, oxo-degradable plastics, food containers, polystyrene cups and plastic balloon sticks would be prohibited in the country from July 3, 2021.
Environment minister Svenja Schulze said the announcement was part of a government effort to move away from ‘throw-away culture’, The Independent reports. For context, around 20% of the rubbish collected across Germany is made up single-use plastic products, such as polystyrene containers.
The directive recognises that single-use plastics have become ‘increasingly ubiquitous in everyday life’ for purposes ‘which are not designed for re-use or cost-effective recycling, means that related production and consumption patterns have become increasingly inefficient and linear’.
Schulze added, as per DW, ‘many single-use plastic products are superfluous and non-sustainable use of resources’ and ‘in addition, plastics end too often in the environment or in the oceans’. According to Federal Environmental Agency research, Germany amassed 18.7 million tons of packaging waste in 2017.
While more than 80% of all marine litter is made up of plastic products, single-use plastics represent about 70% of all rubbish found in the ocean. ‘With today’s cabinet decision, we are taking an important national step in the fight against the plastic flood,’ Schulze said.
The UK’s ban on single-use plastics was originally planned to come into place in April this year, however it was pushed back six months due to the current pandemic. As well as the unavoidable use of single-use personal protective equipment, which has already been found in the sea, the UK’s Foodservice Packaging Association also reported ‘huge demand’ for cups and cutlery.
While a number of restaurants will be reverting to single-use plastics upon reopening tomorrow, July 4, solid hygiene measures on reusable items are just as effective.
Louise Edge, senior plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, told WIRED: ‘Experts are telling us that when it comes to buying food and drinks, plastic packaging doesn’t offer any special protection – and reusable cups, bottles and containers are perfectly safe to use, as long as they are washed properly and social distancing is observed.’
Edge added: ‘Companies and governments still need to step up and shift us away from using plastic for throwaway items like food and drink packaging. They can ensure plastic is only used for essential items – like medical kit – and that it is captured and reused at the end of its life. That’s the only way we will stop this contamination of our environment.’
The directive is set to reduce the EU’s environmental damage bill by €22 billion, the estimated cost of plastic pollution across Europe until 2030.
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