What can a ban on throwaway plastics achieve?

The EU Parliament voted on Wednesday in favour of banning throwaway plastic products. Prior to the vote researchers announced that they have detected plastic particles in human stool for the first time and now assume that there are no more plastic-free areas on the planet. But not all commentators are convinced that the decision passed by the MEPs will solve the problem.

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Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

Jazzy campaign without any real impact

The Berliner Zeitung is sceptical about the EU Parliament's decision because the main source of the rubbish in the sea isn't even in Europe:

“Ninety percent of the dangerous rubbish flows into the oceans from eight large river systems in Asia and two in Africa. ... Plastic waste is buried there inadequately and without any controls. Or rivers are misused for waste disposal. It would be a highly deserving initiative of the EU if it were to make sure that experts from Europe developed modern collection and recycling systems in cooperation with the governments in Vietnam, China and India. ... However, this would be an arduous task, and intangible for EU citizens. So instead one opts for a jazzy campaign that proves one's ability to take action.”

L'Echo (BE) /

Citizens will be watching governments closely

The heads of state and government must be careful not to water down the single-use plastics directive, L'Echo warns:

“It's a progressive piece of legislation that doesn't go so far as to put the knife to industry's throats. But this is not the end of it. Starting November, the MEPs will begin negotiations with the 28 states and the Commission. This famous 'trilogy' often dilutes certain projects. ... This time the decision of the EU Parliament with 571 votes in favour of a ban on single-use plastics [and 53 against] is irrevocable. The governments must be aware that the citizens will follow the negotiations on this directive very closely.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Get rid of all non-recyclable products

Banning plastic bags and straws won't be enough to reduce levels of plastic waste, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“Sustainable change requires majorities and political will: the will to stop the plastification of the planet and to counter the resulting environmental disaster with more than just a symbolic sweep of the broom. ... Germany's strategy of at least burning plastic waste is doubtless better than putting it in landfills, as other industrial nations do. It would be far better, however, to tackle the problem at its roots and at least get rid of all non-recyclable plastic products. That includes a lot more than the often cited plastic bags and straws.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Nothing but appeals and empty promises

Plastic will remain omnipresent in the industrialised world, Der Standard predicts:

“Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the EU Commission, explained in January that it would be impossible to ban plastics but that the EU Commission wanted to push for recycling and reuse. Without plastic many things in the industrial world would no longer function. And many products that make life comfortable, practical and cheap would no longer exist. ... Despite all the appeals and empty promises the plastic problem is not being taken seriously enough. Companies that produce beverages, the food industry, supermarkets and we consumers remain rapacious monkeys.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Good reasons for our reliance on plastic

Quick fixes won't help to address the bigger problem, The Guardian stresses:

“Solving plastic pollution is, it should be said, nowhere near as simple as some campaigners make it sound. Switching away from plastic packaging to other materials would trigger other environmental quandaries, for a start. Bottling liquids in glass rather than plastic makes them heavier, which potentially means more trips to transport them; paper production has a bigger carbon footprint than its plastic equivalent. There's a reason, in short, we got so reliant on plastic in the first place.”