In three years, the European Union could be a no-straw zone.
The 28 member states agreed on Wednesday to a ban on plastic straws, cutlery, cups, drink stirrers, and sticks for balloons.
Member states will also implement incentives like deposit refund schemes with the goal of getting a 90% return rate on plastic bottles by 2025. The agreement includes further commitments to raise awareness about the harms of littering, and how to reuse and recycle products.
Companies who produce single-use food containers, wrappers, cups, balloons, wet wipes, flimsy plastic bags and “tobacco products with filters” like cigarette butts will be required to pay for their cleanup. “The industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products,” according to a European Commission press release.
The plastics under the ban represent 70% of the marine litter that enters oceans from Europe, according to the commission. Once in the ocean, plastic is extremely difficult—if not impossible—to clean up. Among other problems, the plastic trash makes its way into the food system.
“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,” EU environmental commissioner Karmenu Vella aptly put it in a press release.
The ban must now make its way to the European Parliament and Council, where, if approved, would start the clock: The 28 member states would have two years to implement the new rules.