I was quoted by EPPM on the topic of the European Parliament’s vote on the new plastics strategy. Read more below, and on their website.
Policy Analyst for the Consumer Choice Center Bill Wirtz said: “90 per cent of the Parliament just voted to ban a vast array of single-use plastic items … I’m fairly positive that those 90% did not investigate the evidence of whether alternative products are actually better on an environmental level. Studies have shown that the unintended consequences of plastic bans can often be worse for the environment. Take the example of single-use plastic bags: cotton bags might appear more environmentally friendly, but if their re-use rates are too low – which they are, provenly, on average – then we actually end up using more resources.”
Undoubtedly, the catalyst for this momentous prohibition of single-use plastic products is the imagery that swept across screens of the prolific and sinister tide of ocean plastics, with more waste belching into the marine environment by the day. Littering and its catastrophic effects are in the public consciousness and preventing plastic products from leaching into the environment from the very source of their existence is seen as a practical step to stemming the flow of waste into the seas.
“The European Parliament has made history by voting to reduce single-use plastics and slash plastic pollution in our rivers and ocean,” Justine Maillot, EU Affairs Project Officer at Surfrider Foundation Europe on behalf of Rethink Plastic, said. “Citizens across Europe want to see an end to plastic pollution. It’s now up to national governments to keep the ambition high, and resist corporate pressure to continue a throwaway culture.”
Head of UN Environment Eric Solheim tweeted: “Fantastic news from the EU with a single-use plastics ban approved by European Parliament. An important step not just for oceans, but also towards rethinking our throwaway, inefficient economic models.”
Also on Twitter, Greenpeace EU said: “Good news … European Parliament votes to ban and restrict some single use plastics protecting people and nature from plastic pollution. Now national government must finish the job, and stop plastic from choking our oceans.”
Samantha Harding, Litter Programme Director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England commented: “Plastic pollution is an issue that has now reached epidemic proportions. It is fantastic to see other countries taking such significant measures to tackle the scourge of drinks and food containers, as well as a wide-range of unnecessary single-use plastic products. Only by removing these items from circulation are we going to eliminate them and the harm they cause to our countryside, oceans and wildlife.”
Wirtz noted, however, that the issue with plastic littering is more related to consumer awareness, not bad practice at industry level.
“The Parliament should find better measures to prevent littering from happening in the first place, instead of continuously outlawing items that are useful to consumers. With high littering fines, we should make perpetrators of this pollution pay for the damages caused,” he suggested.
The Campaign for Rural England believes the EU can take its efforts to prevent the abhorrent leaking of waste into the sea and the environment a step further.
Harding said: “In addition to a banning unnecessary products, we must also place an ‘improvement tax’ on other plastic products that need to be redesigned or improved in terms of recyclability; use charges to encourage consumers to reduce their use of certain items; and utilise the power of deposits to encourage people to return packaging for recycling via collection systems paid for by the producers of that packaging.”
Speaking for the Consumer Choice Center, however, Witz noted the responsibility should remain with the consumer, who is entitled to make their own choices at the shops.
“It should be up to consumers to decide what products they use. If you believe that plastic isn’t fantastic, that’s fine, but going on an uninformed craze against anything made out of plastic is neither rational nor productive,” he said.