American social media firms are still reeling after being hit with a raft of lawsuits on the first day of the European Union’s GDPR enforcement last week. And already, the bloc is considering its next piece of nanny-state legislation that would create unprecedented headaches for both the food-service industry as well as the companies that manufacture the plastic products used in restaurants, coffee shops and bars.
Not to mention consumers, who likely would bear the brunt of higher costs associated with the rule.
The EU on Monday unveiled a proposal that would ban single-serving plastic products like straws and plastic cutlery in an attempt to cut down on marine litter. The draft rule would ban the 10 plastic products that, according to the Associated Press, comprise 70% of all the garbage floating around the ocean.
These other items would include disposable food containers, single-use cotton swabs (typically used to clean people’s ears), as well as plastic plates and cups often used in fast-food restaurants.
According to the BBC, the EU believes the ban will accomplish a number of desirable goals:
- Avoid 3.4 million tons of carbon emissions.
- Prevent 22 billion euros ($25.6 billion) of environmental damage by 2030.
- Save consumers 6.5 billion euros ($7.6 billion).
To be sure, it will likely be three or four years before these rules take effect - that is, assuming they are passed into law in the first place. Not only would the law need to be approved by the European Parliament, but every EU member state (there are presently 28 member states).
The law would also reduce the sale of these plastic products to households as well, as EU First Vice-President Frans Timmermans points out. The law, Timmermans argues, would go a long way toward preserving the environment as the “harmful” plastic items are replaced with more environmentally friendly (and probably more expensive) products.
“Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem,” EU First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said.
“Today’s proposals will reduce single-use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures.
“We will ban some of these items and substitute them with cleaner alternatives, so people can still use their favourite products.”
“You can still organize a pick-nick, drink a cocktail and clean your ears just like before,” Timmermans said.
Timmermans added that the single-serving utensils wouldn’t be completely banned - instead, companies would be “encouraged” to use sustainable materials instead of cheap plastic. The new rules would also reduce the sale of these items in supermarkets. Ultimately, the new rules would seek to hold the makers of these items responsible for the environmental harm they cause by ensuring that “it’s the polluter that pays,” according to the AP.
Bizarrely, industry groups have expressed support for the new rules. But less surprisingly, the notion that the new rules would help “protect” consumers triggered a backlash from conservatives who scoffed at the notion that these rules would somehow improve the quality of life for ordinary working people, who in all likelihood would be forced to pay more for basic household goods from napkins to feminine hygiene products.
Full tyrant indeed as the European Parliament seems to believe that each sovereign nation is unable to decide for themselves. European Green Party lawmaker Monica Frassoni also welcomed the initiative and added that:
“the scale of the problem means that we cannot rely on individual European countries to take action and must instead find a Europe-wide response.”
Producers of these products would be forced to bear some of the costs for environmental cleanup - costs that likely would be passed on to consumers, according to the proposal, a summary of which can be found below (courtesy of DW). The full EU news release can be found here.
- A ban on the private use of disposable plastic products like straws, plastic plates, plastic utensils, plastic coffee stirrers, cotton swabs with plastic stems and plastic balloon holders.
- Curbing the use of plastic cups for beverages as well as plastic food containers, such as the ones used for take-away.
- Producers of certain products will be required to help cover the costs of clean-up and waste treatment, including: tobacco products with filters (such as cigarette butts), plastic bags, candy wrappers, potato chip packages and wet wipes.
- Menstrual pads, wet wipes and balloons will be required to add a label indicating how the product should be disposed.
- Producers of fishing gear - which accounts for 27% of beach litter - will be required to cover the costs of waste collection in ports.
- Each member state should use a deposit system or other measure in order to collect 90% of plastic bottles used in their country by 2025.
- An increase in consumer information about the dangers of plastic packaging.
EU members would also be forced to require clear labeling on products to “educate” consumers about how their waste impacts the environment. According to data compiled by the consulting firm Eunomia, the UK produces by far the most straws of all EU member states.
You will find more infographics at Statista
However, by the time these rules take effect, the UK more likely than not will no longer be a member of the bloc.