Greens welcome Commission's plans to curb plastic use
Parliament’s Greens/EFA group has welcomed new proposals on plastics due to be formally unveiled on Wednesday by the European Commission, but say they want the executive to go further on recycling.
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Speaking at a news briefing on the issue in Parliament on Tuesday, Greens MEP Margrete Auken described the plastics package as “positive” but lamented “modest” efforts to deal with plastics recycling.
Auken, shadow rapporteur on the plastics dossier, said, “What is missing from these proposals are stricter measures on plastics re-use and recycling.”
Her comments were echoed by the Greens/EFA group environment spokesperson Bas Eickhout, who also told reporters that the EU and others had been “slow to wake up” to the dangers posed by plastics, not least to sealife.
The Commission will this week publish its proposal for a directive to reduce plastic consumption and plastic marine pollution. The single-use plastic proposal will address items like bottles, cutlery, cups and lids.
Ahead of the proposals, the Green/EFA group set out their ideas for reducing disposable plastic products and what they call a “comprehensive” EU-wide plastic strategy promoting non-polluting plastics and plastic reuse.
European environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella is expected to confirm that it aims to ban straws, cutlery, plates and balloon sticks made of plastic as part of a purge on the use of plastics.
The EU is seeking to reduce plastics polluting the environment, especially in oceans and on beaches.
According to a detailed draft legislative proposal leaked to the Greens, the Commission has chosen to ban items such as straws and balloon sticks because “readily available alternatives” exist.
The proposal states that the growing use of plastics “in short lived applications which are not designed for re-use or cost-effective recycling means that related production and consumption patterns have become increasingly inefficient.”
Plans for a plastics strategy first emerged in January with the aim being for all plastic packaging to be reusable or recyclable by 2030.
Auken, who was Parliament’s rapporteur on legislation on the use of plastics bags, introduced in 2015, told the briefing, “Until as recently as 2007 plastics was not a priority for the Commission, but that has all changed.
“We see these proposals being outlined on Wednesday as generally positive. These are mandatory laws and not just a series of recommendations for member states.
“I also welcome the measures designed to curb the use of things like plastic straws, plastic cutlery and balloon sticks. These may appear to be small steps but these are items that can be very destructive, not least to marine life and we can well do without them in our society.”
She noted that while the aim is for all plastic packaging to be reusable or recyclable by 2030, the Commission “could go further on recycling.”
“The Commission’s proposals look like a good start, but they will need to be strengthened if they are to meet the expectations of the citizens and NGOs that have campaigned for action on plastic pollution.”
The deputy said she expects “strong support” from Parliament for the Commission’s plastics proposals and for the legislation to be adopted in time for the 2019 European elections.
The Dane, who sits on the environment, public health and food safety committee, said, “This is necessary because the plastics issue is now very much on the minds of a lot of people.”
Dutch MEP Eickhout said, “We are all too reliant on plastics and there is understandably great concern about how much of the plastics we use end up in the sea and damaging the environment.
“Our eco-systems are suffering as a result of the unregulated use of plastics.”
He said that following publication this week of the Commission’s proposals, the next step the EU should deal with is the re-use and recycling of plastics.
“We will judge these proposals on the basis of how the Commission plans to address this, in particular the issue of bio-plastics which are not necessarily bio-degradable.”
One other concern, he said, was that the Commission will put the onus on member states when it comes to implementing the legislation, adding, “Let us hope, then, that member states will do this.”
Eickhout pointed out that the EU and others have been slow to dealing with the plastics issue, saying, “The EU has not been leading on this and all of us, to be honest, are only just waking up to the problem. This is due mostly to public pressure which has triggered the drastic changes we are now seeing.
“People have demanded action so that has to be a very welcome development of course.”
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