Stop Plastics from Choking the Ocean
December 5, 2018
Plastics are choking the ocean. we've all seen horrible images of whales and other ocean creatures found dead with plastic stuffed into their stomachs.
The European Union is the world’s second-largest consumer of plastic, and demand is growing every year. WeMove Europe members want an end to single-use plastic pollution, and in 2018 we made a huge contribution to the adoption of ambitious legislation to tackle the problem.
A proposal came out for the European Union to reduce plastic consumption and we recognised a massive opportunity. Together with our partners across Europe, we asked the EU to support the adoption of ambitious legislation. It would drastically reduce the consumption of single-use plastics and ensure that producers pay for their pollution.
The first-ever EU conference on plastic strategy occurred in late 2017, and we wanted to be sure the EU would take action. Over 2,100 individuals from our community chipped in to put 150 powerful billboards across Brussels showing the horrors of plastic pollution for our wildlife, and Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans personally accepted over 600,000 signatures.
Shortly thereafter, the EU proposed legislation banning some single-use plastics. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. As the legislative process unfolded, there were attempts to let polluting corporations off the hook for their plastic pollution.
To keep the pressure up we worked with our partners to collect signatures on the massive petition, and our community wrote hundreds of thousands of emails and thousands of tweets to their representatives.
Austria was a key country in this campaign because it held the EU Presidency during trilogue negotiations of the anti-plastics legislation. Right before the final trilogue negotiation in December 2018, we sprang into action to crowdfund advertisements in a major Austrian newspaper which helped to move talks in our favour.
Shortly afterwards, the EU institutions announced an agreement that included the principle that polluting corporations should pay.
The final vote on the plastic legislation was approved in March 2019 by the full plenary of the European Parliament. It banned single-use plastic cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers and took effect in 2021 across the EU. It also requires manufacturers to pay for waste management and clean-up of several single-use plastic items.
But new EU laws take a long time to implement. And by the time the implementation guidelines were being defined in 2020, the plastics industry was already hard at work, lobbying for exemptions and substitutions that would water down the impact of the law.
Our campaign was all the stronger because we worked as part of a dynamic alliance with SumOfUs, Friends of the Earth Europe, Rethink Plastic and Break Free from Plastic.