European Union moves closer to ban on single-use plastic straws, other products

The European Union (EU) moved closer to a ban on single-use plastics Wednesday.

In a statement, the European Commission said the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union reached a preliminary agreement to restrict single-use plastic items like straws, plates, cutlery and cotton swabs. The agreement has to be formally approved before being implemented over the course of two years, it added.

The European Parliament approved the policy in October.

Supporters of the policy highlight that it avoids "3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent" and "environmental damages which would cost the equivalent of €22 billion by 2030" and will save "consumers a projected €6.5 billion."

"When we have a situation where one year you can bring your fish home in a plastic bag, and the next year you are bringing that bag home in a fish, we have to work hard and work fast," European Commission environment commissioner Karmenu Vella said.

"So I am happy that with the agreement of today between Parliament and Council, we have taken a big stride towards reducing the amount of single-use plastic items in our economy, our ocean and ultimately our bodies."

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The EU describes the project as "the most ambitious legal instrument at global level addressing marine litter."

The commission estimates that almost 60 percent of the 25.8 million metric tons of plastic waste produced by member countries each year comes from packaging.

The EU's decision is part of a larger push globally to eliminate plastic items, particularly straws.  

Major chains and restaurants, including Starbucks, The Walt Disney Co. and McDonald’s, have announced in the last year that they will ban plastic straws at their businesses.

Seattle became the first major city to ban plastic straws and utensils in July.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May announced a nationwide ban on the products effective in 2024 to reduce waste.