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Single-Use Plastic Bans Coming into Force Globally

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

Sarah Clifford-Smith sheds light on the action being taken around the world to ban single-use plastics..

Photo by Javardh

In March 2019, the European parliament approved a law that would ban the use of all single-use plastics across the EU by 2021; the law includes plates, straws, cutlery and cotton buds.

This ban is not the first step EU countries have taken towards going plastic-free, however, it is one of the broadest actions proposed thus far, and should reduce plastic consumption significantly. 

In March this year, Germany took action on this law, placing a ban on the most commonly found types of single-use plastic waste. The ban covers single-use cutlery, plates, straws, cotton buds, oxo-degradable plastics, food containers, polystyrene cups and balloon sticks, and comes into effect in July 2021.

A Pollution Problem

In 2016, it was estimated that the EU consumed 100 billion plastic bags per year. Since then, EU countries have taken many steps to combat this, such as the banning of microbeads in the UK and charges on plastic bags. In 2002, Ireland was the first place to tax plastic bag sales; the move was so effective other countries quickly followed suit as the number of bags per person went from 350 to just 14 by 2012

Though these changes have been effective, bigger moves against plastic usage are now needed. The EU ban on single-use plastic is the next phase of fighting plastic pollution, making all EU countries accountable to take action.  

The fight against plastic is not only happening in Europe, with as many as 60 countries having bans or levies on the material in place, such as Taiwan, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Australia and Canada. The world is responding to plastic pollution, in large ways and in small.

As of August 2017, anyone found to be producing, distributing or using plastic bags in Kenya can face up to four years in prison, or a hefty fine. Norway now recycles 97% of its plastic bottles due to reverse vending machines, where bottles are deposited in exchange for vouchers. France was the first country to implement a ban on all single-use plastics in 2016, ready for it to come into place in 2020. More countries are likely to implement similar bans in place in the near future, and prohibitions on other types of plastic are also a probability.

Just the Beginning

It is estimated that 60% of all plastic ever produced has ended up in landfill or contaminating the environment. In Europe alone, around 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced every year, less than 30% of which is recycled. It is also estimated that the production and incineration of plastic adds 400 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere worldwide every year

Simply banning single-use plastics is not enough - the EU’s proposal against plastic covers much more than that. They want to completely reshape the plastics industry,aiming to control its production, use and disposal. They have laid out an action plan involving improvements in the economics and recycling of plastic, curbing plastic waste and littering, driving investment and innovation towards circular renewable solutions and harnessing global action. Though banning single-use plastic is a key step to stopping plastic pollution and saving our environment, it is only one part of the solution.


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