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European Union moves toward ban on single-use plastics

  • The EU is moving closer to phasing out many common kinds of plastic items
  • Its parliament on Wednesday backed a ban on many single-use plastics by a vote of 560-35
  • It would affect a range of products for which reasonable alternatives exist, from straws to earbuds, starting in 2021

The European Union's parliament voted overwhelmingly to ban many single-use plastic items, part of an effort to keep pollution and waste out of waterways. The European Parliament backed the ban in a 560-35 final vote on Wednesday. EU member states have given their support but need to vote on the measure for it to go into effect.

The ban would affect a range of plastic products for which reasonable alternatives exist, from straws to earbuds, starting in 2021. Disposable utensils would be allowed, but the measure calls for them to be made of sustainable materials when possible.

The approved legislation also sets a goal of having plastic bottles 90 percent recycled by 2025 and to cut in half the litter from 10 items that turn up in oceans most often. The EU estimated the changes will cost the bloc's economy 259 million euros to 695 million euros a year ($291 million to $781 million).

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The proposals "will help us move on from single-use plastics and toward less consumption, the multiple use of better-designed products, more innovation and a cleaner environment. The next step is to move away from our waste-based culture," said Margrete Auken, an EU lawmaker for the Greens/EFA group.

The European Parliament has said plastics production is 20 times higher now than during the 1960s. Most of that plastic ends up in the ocean, with less than one-tenth being recycled. China last year cracked down on importing waste from the EU and U.S, a move that helped spur the EU plastics ban.

The U.S. state of Hawaii is considering a similar ban on single-use plastics.