Germany is stepping up measures to get in line with European Union guidelines to ban single-use plastics by 2021. In an effort to squash “throw-away culture,” Germany is banning the sale of single-use plastic straws, cotton buds, and food containers.
As of July 3, 2021, consumers will no longer find these items in circulation. Some of the items on the chopping block are single-use cutlery, plates, stirring sticks, and balloon holders, as well as polystyrene cups and boxes. Germany’s course of action puts it on track to meet the European Union standards that were finalized in March 2019.
This is just the first step that Member States are being asked to follow. By 2029 they’ll need to have a 90% collection target for plastic bottles and these bottles will need to have at least 25% recycled contents by 2025. The policies also extend to tobacco manufacturers, who are being asked to significantly reduce the amount of plastic in cigarette filters. Fishing gear is another target of the policy, as the makers of the nets will need to pay for the cost of collection for those lost at sea.
Germany is leading the charge by announcing these changes, and it’s particularly important to note that 20% of trash collected in parks or other public spaces in the country is made from single-use plastic. “Many single-use plastic products are superfluous and non-sustainable use of resources,” says Environment Minister Svenja Schulze.
Their stand is particularly timely, as the UK just pushed back the date of when their single-use plastic ban would go into effect. It had been set to start in April 2020, but the government has delayed the implementation for six months due to the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, many are turning to single-use plastic cutlery and dishware as a “safer” alternative during the global pandemic.
But, according to Louise Edge, senior plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, these fears are unfounded. “Experts are telling us that when it comes to buying food and drinks, plastic packaging doesn’t offer any special protection—and reusable cups, bottles, and containers are perfectly safe to use, as long as they are washed properly and social distancing is observed.” In fact, on June 22 over 100 scientists published an open letter saying that reusable dishware is safe if properly washed. So, there’s no reason that personal safety and environmental safety can’t go hand in hand.