Last updated on January 28, 2024.
This is exciting news!
The European Union has passed landmark legislation that will ban single-use plastics like straws, forks, and plates beginning in 2021. This is going to have a major impact worldwide!
According to a Forbes article, “The aim of the directive, which is part of the European Plastics Strategy, is to protect the environment and reduce marine litter by avoiding the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2.” But it will also avoid an estimated $24.9 billion in environmental damages by 2030.1
Plastic is harmful to all life forms
Globally, plastics make up 85% of marine litter, according to the European Commission.2 The World Wide Fund reported that plastics account for 95% in the Mediterranean Sea. “And plastics are even reaching people’s lungs and dinner tables, with micro-plastics in the air, water and food having an unknown impact on their health.”3 It’s going through the entire food chain.
Plastic production has increased exponentially since 1960, with the current global production of 322 million tons. That is expected to double or even triple in the next 20 years! Perhaps actions and legislation like this will reverse this growth and waste.
If you read my article about plastic straws, then you know that they are causing environmental problems along with many other single-use disposable plastics. Besides the sheer amount of waste, plastics are harming marine life and posing risks to human health.
Here are some facts from the WWF report on how marine life is harmed by human use of plastics:4
- Animals mistake plastics for food.
- Plastic releases up to 30 times more contaminants when it is present in body tissue like the intestines. Those contaminants can cause liver damage or hormone disruption.
- Today 90% of seabirds have plastic fragments in their stomachs.
- Over 90% of the damage caused to marine wildlife by human waste is due to plastics.
- Globally, there are about 700 marine species threatened by plastics, some of which are endangered species.
- Worldwide, 344 species have been found trapped in plastics! This can be fatal either from drowning or from becoming easy prey.
- Plastics can cause injuries and deformities.
- In general, all the fishing gear that is abandoned, lost, or discarded at sea (lines, nets, traps) causes damage to wildlife, trapping and killing fish and other marine animals – a phenomenon known as “ghost fishing”.
- Plastics have also infiltrated the world of the microscopic. Zooplankton (the small organisms at the base of the marine food chain) involuntarily feed on plastic fragments smaller than 1mm. These fragments can contain toxic substances: by ingesting them the zooplankton transmit them up the food chain, all the way to humans.
The Blue Planet
If you love the Earth’s oceans, you’ll enjoy The Blue Planet series. In 2017, Blue Planet II was released and features the hazards of plastics on marine life. In the video below, David Attenborough, the writer and narrator of many BBC natural history documentaries, said he hoped that Blue Planet II would “open people’s eyes to the damage we are doing to our oceans.” I’m sure their contributions have helped!
Leading the Way
“Single-use plastics are not a smart economic or environmental choice,” said Vice-President Jyrki Katainen of the European Commission. “This is an opportunity for Europe to lead the way, creating products that the world will demand for decades to come, and extracting more economic value from our precious and limited resources.”5 It’s so refreshing to see leaders in the world making plastic waste reduction a priority!
Companies will listen to you
Here in the United States, know that you can take action too. Companies follow supply and demand. So if many people are demanding a company to use less plastic or provide reusable containers, the company will listen! Write, call, or email the companies you purchase from and ask that they use less disposable plastic packaging.
Recently, a few large companies including Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Pepsi, and Nestlé have introduced reusable packaging for certain products in an attempt to phase out single-use plastics. This is also for public relations because they don’t want to be viewed as giant contributors to the pollution problem. Better late than never, I guess. But this shows that they’re listening to us (or at least watching their sales)!
What You Can Do!
The best thing you can always do is this: REFUSE plastic containers. I have stopped buying 90% of the items I used to because they only come in plastic containers. And my life is pretty much the same. Once in a while, I have to search hard for a product in glass or metal, but it’s just become the norm for me. You can do this too!
There’s got to be more change – we can do it! What are you currently doing to reduce or refuse plastic? Leave me a comment below!
As always, thank you for reading.