Mairead McGuinness MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament.
70% of all litter found on our shores could disappear under new legislative proposals from the European Commission, according to Mairead McGuinness MEP first Vice-President of the European Parliament.
She said the 10 most common plastic waste materials found on our beaches and in the sea, along with lost fishing gear, representing 70% of all ocean litter, are being targeted.
“Consumers are deeply concerned about the impact of plastic waste on their health and on the environment,” she said pointing to the latest special EU Barometer indicating 75% of citizens are concerned about plastic waste.
“This new initiative from the Commission is a tangible step to address these public concerns.
"It will mean a ban on single use plastic items which have a readily available alternative on the market today. The ban will affect plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons," she said.
Ms McGuinness said we cannot continue the habit of "use and dispose" without reflecting on where this waste goes. Binning rubbish is not the end game, she said.
"The materials targeted by today’s initiative end up in the sea having a detrimental impact on marine life. In March 2002, when the plastic bag charges came into effect, Ireland witnessed a 90% reduction in the usage and litter from plastic bags across the country.
"We understood then the negative environmental impacts of plastic bags and these new proposals could have a real impact to reduce marine waste.
She said there will be new labelling requirements, for example on baby wipes and balloons as well as sanitary towels to indicate how this waste should be disposed of and the presence of plastic in the product.
Member states and industry will need to create awareness of plastics and their proper disposal and this is hugely important, she said.
But she also made the point that not all plastics are bad. “When properly used, they greatly benefit society and it would be difficult to imagine living without them.”
The European Parliament, along with the Council, will now work on this as a priority.