The EU last week agreed to adopt a directive to introduce much-anticipated laws to slash single-use plastics. Friends of the Earth Malta (FoE Malta) welcomed the EU’s finalised new laws to reduce single-use plastics and said the agreed text was a significant step forward in tackling plastic pollution, but does not fully address the urgency of the plastics crisis.

The final measures adopted include bans on several single-use plastic items including plates, cutlery and expanded polystyrene food containers and beverage cups; and ensuring manufacturers pay for waste management and clean-up of several single-use plastic items, including cigarette butts and fishing gear.

However, FoE Malta said the agreement fell short of what was needed to fully tackle the plastics crisis in key areas. For example, there is no binding EU-wide target to reduce the consumption of food containers and cups, and no obligation for EU countries to adopt targets; there is a delay of four years on ensuring that 90 per cent of plastic bottles are collected separately – from 2025 to 2029.

A significant step forward in tackling plastic pollution, but does not fully address the urgency of the plastics crisis

“The EU deserves praise for being the first region to introduce new laws to reduce single-use plastics and slash plastic pollution in our fields, rivers and oceans. Citizens across Europe want to see an end to our throwaway culture and politicians have taken the first step. The time is ripe for Europe to transition away from single-use plastics to reusables,” a spokesman for the eNGO said.

FoE Malta added that it supported the reduced use of food containers and beverage cups but believed there needs to be specific EU-wide targets. Reduction targets should be established for the products listed as food containers and cups for beverages, it said.

On the other hand, FoE Malta warned that the authorities should not fall for bio-based or biodegradable plastics: “Avoid the substitution of single-use plastics by bio-based and/or biodegradable single-use plastics which are still detrimental to the environment, and ensure that if biodegradable plastics are used, they are accurately labelled to indicate to the consumer where they can be composted since most require an industrial composter and cannot be disposed of in the typical compost bin at homes and gardens.”

For the last three decades, FoE Malta has been sounding the alarm bells that if waste reduction is not taken seriously Malta will end up in a position to have to take unpalatable decisions about its waste management strategy. “We have now come to that stage where the situation is critical and tough policies and regulations need to be enacted especially when it comes to single use plastics,” it said.

Member States will have two years to transpose the EU directive into national laws, which should come into force at the beginning of 2021 at the latest.

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