The battle to protect our blue planet received a boost yesterday, as the European Commission launched the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.
Plastic production is 20 times higher now than in the 1960s and is set to quadruple again by 2050. We cannot continue to produce and use this amount of plastic, which is impacting hugely on our environment.
Reducing the amount of plastics in our oceans and on our beaches is vital to protect marine life and also to ensure that fish, and as a result the food chain, are not further contaminated by plastics. We must embrace the move by Europe to eliminate single use plastics, microbeads and marine litter as soon as possible.
Given the ban by China on foreign plastic waste as of January 2018, governments and industry in Europe and around the world must address the issue of plastic waste with a degree of urgency. As a result, the EU now wants 55% of all plastic to be recycled by 2030.
I warmly welcome the EU clamp down on single use plastics, such as coloured plastic bottles, coffee cups, lid and stirrers, drinking straws, takeaway packaging and microbeads. Industry must become more responsible in the use of plastics, both in terms of reduction and recyclability. As consumers we must adapt our habits, and as governments, we must implement laws that prevent non-recycable plastics irreparably damaging our environment.
Ireland was a forerunner in 2002 by being the first country to develop a policy on plastic bags. In the first year after legislation introducing a plastic bag levy, a reduction of 90% of plastic bags in Ireland was recorded. We must now continue to drive the agenda, particularly as an island nation, surrounded by magnificent fishing waters and beautiful beaches, to change habits when it comes to plastics in our lives.
Science, the research journal, estimates that 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans each year – the equivalent of one truckload per minute (which is over five trillion pieces of plastic debris floating in the ocean, totalling 268,940 tonnes – almost the equivalent to 25,000 Dublin buses. The Seas, Rivers, Islands and Coastal Areas Intergroup, of which Deirdre Clune MEP is an active member, has been working and lobbying on the issue of plastics in relation to marine life, and takes into account the specific issues faced by islands, including Ireland.