Cotton buds and straws should be banned to cut down on plastic in oceans, says EU
The European Union has proposed banning plastic products such as cotton buds, straws, stirrers and balloon sticks - when alternatives are easily available - in an attempt to reduce the amount of 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 £188 billion over the next 12 years.
EU vice president Frans Timmermans said utensils would not be banned completely, but steps would be taken to have them made out of sustainable materials where possible.
He also announced new proposals to ensure that it is the polluter who pays.
The proposals will be assessed by the EU Parliament and member states but Mr Timmermans hopes to see results before May 2019. And unlike so many EU proposals which are immediately criticised by consumer and environmental groups as "too little too late", the reaction was largely positive yesterday.
"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.
The European Parliament has said that plastics production is now 20 times higher than it was in the 1960s.
The EU has also been spurred into action by China's decision to no longer import part of the bloc's waste.