Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics

The European Union will ban single use plastic within two years (by 2021). Single-use plastics include plastic straws, cup lids, plates, coffee stirrers, food containers, cutlery, and swab sticks. Such throw-away items not only fill landfills but end up in the world’s oceans, threatening marine life and breaking down into micro-plastics which is now entering the food-chain.

These plastic products are not recyclable and not biodegradable. Around the world, some of them end up in streams that flow into rivers and eventually the ocean.

According to the New York Times, “EU countries can choose their own methods of reducing the use of other single-use plastics such as takeout containers and cups for beverages. They will also have to collect and recycle at least 90 percent of beverage bottles by 2029.”

In the United States one study estimates that 500 million straws are used every single day. Another study estimated as many as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches. (National Geographic)

According to Fast Company: “If the current trends around plastic production and use hold steady, plastic may account for 20% of the world’s oil use by 2050. As of July 2018, U.N. Environment and WRI found that 127, or 66%, of the countries they surveyed have implemented some type of policy to regulate plastic bags.

States Taking the Lead

California recently became the first state to nix plastic straws from restaurant tables, and straw bans are starting to be implemented in cities across the country. Starting in 2019, customers in California will have to ask if they want a straw.

Hawaii is poised to also introduce a ban on single-use plastics. Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maryland may be next in line to implement such bans. State lawmakers have introduced at least 95 bills in 2019 limited single use plastic bags like those used in grocery stores. Most of these bills would ban or place a fee on plastic bags. Others would preempt local government action or improve bag recycling programs.

City & Towns and Voluntary Bans

Some major cities have implemented bans on single use plastic. Seattle last year banned plastic straws. Dozens of cities in California, Texas, Washington State and other states have banned or limited the use of single use plastic bags.

The Clarke County Democrats’ Green Team has discussed asking local businesses in Clarke County and Berryville to implement a voluntary ban on plastic straws and single-use, non compostable, non-recyclable plastic such as bags and cutlery. This is a topic we will do some further research on before making a recommendation.

Further Reading

EU Lawmakers Back Ban on Single-Use Plastics, Set Standard for Word (NYTimes, March 27, 2019)

EU Government Backs Ban on Single Use Plastics (greenbiz, april 2019)

Bottles, utensils and bags: Lawmakers are coming for your single-use plastics (Hawaii News Now, March 15, 2019)

State Plastic Bag Regulations

127 countries are now working to ban single-use plastic (Fast Company, Dec. 2018)

Seattle becomes the latest city to ban plastic straws and utensils (CNN)

A Brief History of How Plastic Straws took over the World (National Geographic)