Watch CBS News

EU ban on plastic straws and stirs proposed to cut marine litter

BRUSSELS — The European Union has proposed banning plastic products like cotton buds, straws, stirs and balloon sticks when alternatives are easily available in an attempt to reduce litter spoiling beaches and ocean beds.

The European Commission said its proposal would seek to cut marine litter in half for the ten most prominent items and avoid environmental damage estimated at over $250 billion over the next dozen years.

EU Vice President Frans Timmermans said that utensils would not be banned completely, but steps would be taken to have them made out of sustainable materials when possible.

"You can still organize a pick-nick, drink a cocktail and clean your ears just like before," Timmermans said.

He also made new proposals to ensure that it is the polluter that pays.

New York City considers ban on plastic straws 01:34

The proposal will be assessed by the EU parliament and member states but Timmermans hopes to see results before May 2019.

And unlike so many EU proposals that are immediately criticized by consumer and environmental groups as too little too late, the reaction was largely positive on Monday.

"The only way to stop plastics pouring into our oceans is to turn off the flow at its source: production," said Lasse Gustavsson, the European executive director of the environmental group Oceana, as he lauded the initiative.

European Green Party lawmaker Monica Frassoni also welcomed the initiative and added that "the scale of the problem means that we cannot rely on individual European countries to take action and must instead find a Europe-wide response."

The European Parliament has said that plastics production is now 20 times higher than in 1960s. The EU has also been spurred into action by China's decision to no longer import part of the bloc's waste.

Berkeley residents look to ban straws 01:52

Across the Atlantic last Wednesday, the New York City Council introduced a bill to ban the use of plastic straws in the city, CBS New York reports. Restaurants would be able to instead offer reusable aluminum straws, or straws made of paper, corn or even pasta.

"It's important for New Yorkers to understand that the plastic straw is not a necessity. It's more of a luxury, and our luxury is causing great harm to other environments," Councilman Rafael Espinal, the bill's lead sponsor, said, The New York Times reported.

A similar ban was proposed last week at the annual shareholder meeting for McDonald's. Shareholders on Thursday rejected a proposal to ban plastic straws at the global fast-food giant's 37,000 outlets serving 68 million customers every day. 

Viral videos -- including one depicting researchers extracting a plastic straw from a sea turtle's bleeding nostril -- is prompting some companies to find ocean-friendlier alternatives, but McDonald's isn't onboard, at least not in the U.S. 

McDonald's in March said it would phase out plastic straws in the U.K., but on Thursday it stuck to its stance of resisting efforts to do the same in the United States.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.