“Plastics have evolved to become one of the [most closely] scrutinized material categories existing today, especially when it comes to food packaging and catering items,” stressed de Bie, who adds, “bioplastics can offer such sustainable and safe alternatives for some of these identified products.”
Obviously, the European Commission does not know that even bioplastics have their issues with sustainability—not all bioplastics are compostable or recyclable. Thus, banning straws, stirrers, and other “single-use” containers in the hopes that the favored “bioplastics” will be ready to satisfy demand for these products gives the impression that these so-called “green” plastics will be better for the marine environment, even if they also take a year or more to degrade (if at all).
The EUBP appears to acknowledge this dilemma by noting that in certain contexts single-use catering items are relevant and necessary—for example, in closed systems with integrated waste management schemes, such as airplanes, sports arenas, or open-air events. Moreover, other factors must be considered, such as safety and hygiene. “In these specific cases, bio-based plastic catering items can help to reduce environmental impacts, for example, through a lower carbon footprint. Whether the items should be mechanically recyclable or compostable depends on the defined waste management concept of the respective closed system,” suggests de Bie.
Alexandre Dangis, EuPC Director, commented: “At a moment when the EU Commission is asking the industry to pledge or commit to more use of recycled plastics materials, it is also asking to ban certain recyclable products. This is the wrong signal, which will maintain the levels of landfill in the EU that we have today if European waste laws are not properly implemented. One could then argue whether the Commission is able to influence member states on proper environmental behavior, in line with existing directives. Instead, the EU Commission is attacking a part of the industry by banning products.”
EuPC also noted that the proposal has an obvious bias as it is supported by an impact assessment, which has been mainly based on a study authored by one consultancy paid by the Commission, that also worked to support anti-plastics lobbies.
The proposal also hits producers of these products by making them cover the costs of cleanup and waste management. Bans also “turn off the flow” of these single-use plastic products at their source, which has the approval of environmental group Oceana.