The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten has welcomed a proposal from the European Commission for new laws to tackle the impact of single-use plastic items on the marine environment.

The proposal, which comes five months after publication of the Commission’s Plastics’ Strategy, focuses on the 10 most common single-use plastic items and fishing gear.

70% of all marine litter items found on Europe’s beaches are made up of single-use plastic items and fishing gear.

Minister Denis Naughten said: “I have been consistently encouraging the European Commission to show more ambition when it comes to dealing with the problem that plastic litter creates in our environment. Today’s proposal envisages a range of measures available to Member States to tackle single-use plastic items which I very much welcome. I am urging the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers to consider these proposals as soon as possible. Before today’s Commission proposal, it would have been illegal for individual Member States to take actions to ban packaging or interfere with the EU internal market. Now, all 28 Member States will be able to move as one to tackle plastic waste. I am looking forward to bring practical solutions and a package of measures along with my government colleagues responsible for marine environment and fisheries, that will work in an Irish context.”

The draft law proposes:

• a ban on the sale of certain plastic items such as cotton bud sticks, disposable cutlery and balloon sticks;

• only allowing plastic single-use drinks containers if their caps and lids remain attached;

• reducing the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups by setting national targets or using levies;

• requiring producers to help cover the costs of waste management, clean-up, and awareness raising measures for food containers, packets and wrappers, drinks containers and cups, tobacco products with filters, wet wipes, balloons, and lightweight plastic bags;

• standardised labelling for sanitary products, wet wipes and balloons with information about plastic content and the impact of littering;

• obliging member states to collect 90% of single-use plastic bottles by 2025, for example through extended producer responsibility schemes or deposit refund schemes; and

• extended producer responsibility schemes to be established for fishing gear containing plastic.

Negotiation of the proposal between the Commission and Member States as well as the European Parliament will start in the coming weeks. Once agreed, Member States will have two years to implement the requirements nationally.

Source: Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment