Single-use plastics, such as straws, are usually thrown away after one use.Single-use plastics, such as straws, are usually thrown away after one use.

A new policy on single-use plastics is expected to propose weeding them out “as much as possible”, Environment Ministry sources said.

Single-use plastics are products that are usually thrown away after just one brief use. They are rarely recycled and are more prone to end up as litter than other plastics.

The European Commission has been pushing for member states to curb the use of such plastics, including straws and cups, for several months but is yet to come out with a set of clear guidelines.

Sources on Monday told the Times of Malta that in the absence of EU-wide recommendations, Environment Minister Josè Herrera has called on the Environment and Resources Authority to draft a set of proposals on how to tackle the matter.

“This is something that will build on the work already being done to combat the amount of plastic bottles that end up as litter,” the sources said.

According to the Commission, single-use plastic items regularly found in beach litter are  drinks bottles, cotton bud sticks, bags, crisps packets and sweets wrappers, straws and stirrers, balloons and balloon sticks, food containers, cups and cutlery.

Read: Momentum picking up for solution to plastic pollution

The Commission estimates that these make up half of all marine litter in the EU. It also forecasts that by 2050 there will be more plastics than fish in the oceans, by weight.

While it was “too early” to divulge concrete details on what ERA will be proposing, the authority’s brief was to find ways to minimise the amount of single-use plastic on the island. 

It is also expected to include a drive to push for re-usable products and biodegradable alternatives to plastic when possible.

Biodegradable and compostable plastics, however, are not a simple solution.

While these may be used as an alternative to conventional plastics, they could aggravate plastics leakage in the absence of proper labelling.

The sources explained how these products usually degrade only under specific conditions and required special facilities to do so.

“This is not so straightforward and explains why we have roped in ERA to study the situation and come up with a series of proposals and a strategy for the way forward,” the sources said.