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On Monday (5.28), the European Commission unveiled a new proposal that would prohibit certain plastic products including cotton buds (a.k.a. Q-tips), straws, stirrers and balloon sticks.

The proposals are part of a growing European Union drive to rid the environment of plastic waste which has begun showing up in the food chain.

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

The plan does not set a deadline for a total ban on single-use plastic items such as cotton buds, plates and straws. Companies will also be offered incentives to develop less polluting alternatives.

The introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for waste fishing gear, cigarette butts, beverage containers including lids and caps, food containers, lightweight plastic bags, sanitary towels and wet wipes amongst others.

The proposal also faced criticism from the plastics industry.

The implementation of an EU-wide ban would pave the way for the United Kingdom and its devolved governments to introduce national bans without fear of going against the rules of the Single Market.

There would be no immediate bans on products for which "straight-forward alternatives" were not yet available.

Similarly, producers of plastic fishing gear, which accounts for 27 percent of all beach litter, will have to cover the costs of waste collection from port reception facilities and its transport and treatment, along with covering the costs of awareness-raising measures.

These laws will be discussed and further amended at the European Parliament and among the Council of EU Ministers.

The EU executive proposed to cut funds to poorer regions of the bloc in the 2021-2027 budget, in a move expected to trigger fresh criticism from Poland, Hungary and other eastern European states that have relied on EU funds in recent years to fuel strong economic growth.

A spokesperson for the European Commission told The Brussels Times that nearly 100 items of single-use plastics is not covered by the proposal, such as diapers and medical items. In 2016, Californian's voted to ban plastic bags which was rewarded with a drop of 72 percent in the amount of such waste found by litter collectors by the next year.

"This is an opportunity for Europe to lead the way, creating products that the world will demand for decades to come, and extracting more economic value from our precious and limited resources", he added.


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