EU plastic ban 2021: eco-alternatives to single-use products

In 2019, the European Commission passed a directive regarding the use of plastic within the EU countries. Now, the year has come: from July 2021, single-use plastic products will no longer be available for purchase anywhere – not physically or online – in the EU.

Even though this will not come into force until mid-2021, giants like Amazon had been warning their sellers that they would start implementing the policy several months before to ensure a smoother transition of the directive. Starting December 2020, the company began removing the availability of said products from their site.

This accomplishment marks a milestone on the way to a greener economy; however, we as consumers may not be prepared for this change, as we have been used to these items for our entire lives. Keep reading to learn more about this approaching law, and the alternatives we can find to replace those disposable objects we need to start saying goodbye to this 2021.

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The problem of plastic

Plastic has become one of the main concerns for our planet, with an estimation of 269,000 tonnes of it polluting our oceans. According to Our World in Data, Ireland is one of the countries with the highest level of plastic waste per person and day worldwide. That figure alone should make us reconsider our choices and seek more ecological options.

Unfortunately, recycling every plastic item is not viable yet. Even if we all decided to separate our waste – something that is sadly not a reality – there are many types of plastic that cannot be recycled. Hence, there is a need to find a solution as soon as possible.

The Directive (EU) 2019/904 is a part of the EU agenda for the environment, a strategy that aims to achieve a circular economy – reusing every resource to the maximum and avoiding waste – and reducing pollution by implementing small steps and deadlines. Among other things, it tries to tackle the huge problem that plastic has been proven to be and reduce its impact on the ecosystem.

July 2021 is just the start, with the prohibition of many disposable products. Other actions include the increase in the collection of plastic bottles, which must also be manufactured with at least 25% of recycled material by 2025 and 30% by 2030; correct the labelling of products, such as wet wipes and sanitary items, including information on how to properly dispose of them, and marking the presence of plastic in their composition; and strengthen a good consumer behaviour with awareness campaigns and more education on the matter.

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The single-use plastic products that are being removed from the market are cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks), plates, straws, cotton bud sticks, beverage stirrers, the plastic sticks attached to support balloons, food containers made of expanded polystyrene, and products made from oxo-degradable plastic – the one found in shopping bags.

What alternatives do we have?

It is us, the consumers, who have to be the first to acknowledge the issue and take action on the matter. There are many different ways to contribute, starting with completely eliminating single-use items from now on and not waiting for the law to be applied in July. If you were wondering how to find substitutes for objects, such as cotton buds or straws, the market offers you a wide variety to choose from.

Bamboo is one of the top materials to switch to, as it is natural and its production and exploitation are considered very ecological and sustainable. You can find disposable bamboo cutlery and plates with a quick search, but the ideal thing to do would be to buy reusable ones to reduce our waste the best we can.

Straws, for instance, can be found in many forms and materials. Bamboo is again one of the options, but there are also metal and silicone ones. These are usually a controversial topic, as many consider straws to be a useless item we should avoid at all costs. We have to bear in mind that it is an essential product for many disabled people, who have difficulties using cups or glasses otherwise, so finding a greener option is great for them and the environment at the same time.

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Cotton buds also have an eco-friendly version made out of bamboo. Once more, they are being thrown away after each use, so another good option if you want something more durable is to buy a silicone reusable one, like this LastObject one. This company also has other interesting items to check: a reusable tissue pack, as well as reusable cotton rounds.

For other items – plastic shopping bags, bottles, or food containers – one can rely on lasting materials such as fabric, tempered glass, and metal. Try to always carry your own shopping bags and containers, and you will be saving the environment quite the amount of plastic to deal with.

With small easy actions and sustainable choices, we can all be part of the necessary change for our planet. The future is made with the actions and choices you make today, so don’t wait until tomorrow to start helping your environment. We do only have one world to protect.

Julia Villanueva
Julia Villanueva

Spaniard living in Ireland, passionate about literature, learning languages, and knowing different cultures.

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