SOME cities and towns ban single use plastics. Others go a bit further by shunning plastics on the provincial or state level. A few go to the extreme by banning plastic nationwide.

Around 60 countries have introduced levies and bans to combat single-use plastic waste, according to UN Environment, an agency of the United Nations.

Now, European Union member countries are set to ban plastic on what could be the biggest plastic ban law. It’s a landmark anti-plastic legislation.

According to a press release of the European parliament, single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks or cotton buds, will be banned in the European Union beginning 2021. The report was adopted with 571 votes to 53 and 34 abstentions. The European Parliament will enter into negotiations with the European Council of government ministers for the 28 member states. A final decision will be made by December 16. The European Parliament is made up of 751 members elected in the 28 member states of the enlarged European Union.

Also included in the legislation were oxo-degradable plastics and certain polystyrenes plastics. The consumption of several other items, for which no alternative exists, will have to be reduced by member states by least 25% by 2025. This includes single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes or food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams. Member states will draft national plans to encourage the use of products suitable for multiple use, as well as re-using and recycling. Other plastics, such as beverage bottles, will have to be collected separately.

European parliament members agreed that reduction measures should also cover waste from tobacco products, in particular cigarette filters containing plastic.

It would have to be reduced by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030. One cigarette butt can pollute between 500 and 1,000 liters of water, and thrown on the roadway, it can take up to twelve years to disintegrate. They are the second most littered single-use plastic items.

Member states should also ensure that at least 50% of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic is collected per year, with a recycling target of at least 15% by 2025. Fishing gear represents 27% of waste found on Europe’s beaches.

According to the European Commission, more than 80% of marine litter is plastics. The products covered by these restrictions constitute 70% of all marine litter items. Due to its slow rate of decomposition, plastic accumulates in seas, oceans and on beaches in the EU and worldwide. Plastic residue is found in marine species such as sea turtles, seals, whales and birds, but also in fish and shellfish, and therefore in the human food chain.

While plastics are a convenient, adaptable, useful and economically valuable material, they need to be better used, re-used and recycled. When littered, the economic impact of plastics encompasses not just the lost economic value in the material, but also the costs of cleaning up and losses for tourism, fisheries and shipping.