Along with the ban on these 10 items, the agreement sti […]
Along with the ban on these 10 items, the agreement stipulates that EU members “will take the necessary measures to achieve a measurable quantitative reduction” in the use of other single-use plastics. These include plastic takeout containers that aren’t covered by the above categories, and the ubiquitous plastic coffee cup.At press time, EU representatives had not responded to a Popular Science request for clarification of what constitutes a “measurable quantitative reduction.
Walker says that number should be at least 50 percent.The other part of the agreement deals with cigarette butts: it says that tobacco filter makers will have to cover the cost of getting the plastic butts out of the environment. “It is great that extended producer responsibility is applied to at least some items,” says Melanie Bergman, a plastic pollution researcher at Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute.But there are other things the EU has the power to ban.
Bergmann, who researches the spread of microplastics, notes that an easy potential way to keep these tiny bits of plastic out of the environment doesn’t appear in the agreement. “If fewer plastic items leak into the environment because of the plastic strategy, less microplastic can be generated,” she says. “Still, there are important additional sources, which are not yet targeted.
For example, thousands of microplastic fibers which are generated when we wash our clothes, a large proportion of which nowadays contains plastic.”Some of that microplastic—like the microplastics generated by the wear of car tires and shoe soles, which gets washed down storm drains—is filtered out in the sewage treatment plant, she says. But not all of it: around three percent makes it out into the water. “Three percent can still be a lot,” she says.
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