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Ban on single-use plastics, less CO2 emissions, health and safety at work: the European Parliament on our side.

The hemicycle in Strasbourg is completing the final stages of a set of provisions before the end of term. Laws for the protection of the environment and for citizens’ health

(from Strasbourg) Only a few days to go to the end of the legislative term. The European Parliament gathered in its third-from-last plenary session in Strasbourg, completed an endless series of legislative procedures. Many dossiers are still open and MEPs are called to sit through interminable sittings. “I now put to the vote…”, announces the Assembly’s Presidency , “who is in favour, who against, who abstains …?”. A veritable “voting-factory” that is the product of months (in some cases, years) of parliamentary commission activities, of technical and political debates, of intense discussions within political groups. And while the key-issues of Tuesday March 26 included the digital copyright directive and the decision to scrap daylight saving time, the session of March 27 focused on another infinite set of issues, notably the ban on throwaway plastics.

Legislative model. Thus by 2021 the following products will be banned in the EU: single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks), plastic plates, plastic straws, cotton bud sticks made of plastic, plastic food containers and expanded polystyrene cups, and much more. The decision was taken by the European Parliament that approved a new directive with 560 votes in favour, 35 against and 28 abstensions. “This legislation will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22 billion – the estimated cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030”, said rapporteur Frédérique Ries. “Europe now has a legislative model to defend and promote at international level, given the global nature of the issue of marine pollution involving plastics.” The directive also sets “new recycling targets and more responsibility for producers”, states a Parliament release. Member states will have to achieve a 90% collection target for plastic bottles by 2029, and plastic bottles will have to contain at least 25% of recycled content by 2025 and 30% by 2030. The directive strengthens the application of the “polluter pays principle”, by introducing extended responsibility for producers” to ensure they bear the costs of collecting: this is true in particular for tobacco filters and for fishing gear lost at sea. The legislation also stipulates that “labelling on the negative environmental impact of throwing cigarettes with plastic filters in the street should be mandatory”, as well as for other products such as plastic cups, wet wipes and sanitary napkins.

 

Reduction of polluting emissions. Among the provisions that were given the green light figures the plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from cars and vans by 2030. MEPs and EU ministers have agreed on a higher target (37.5%) to reduce emissions for new cars by 2030, compared to the European Commission’s proposed target (30%). The legislation also sets a CO2 reduction target for new vans (31%) by 2030. The legislation was adopted with 521 votes to 63 and 34 abstentions. It now requires a final adoption by Council before publication in the Official Journal.

Chemical agents. Green light also to new limit values of cancer-inducing substances injurious to the health of workers. The proposal was adopted by a large majority vote in Parliament: 586 MEPs voted in favour, 10 against e 26 abstained. The amended legislation adds cadmium, beryllium and formaldehyde; RAC: arsenic acid and 4,4’-methylene-bis(2-chloroaniline) (MOCA) to the list of harmful chemicals. “These chemicals are used in sectors such as nickel-cadmium battery manufacturing, zinc and copper smelting, laboratories, electronics, funerals, construction, healthcare, (pathology and autopsy wards), plastics and recycling sectors. Italian MEP Laura Agea, rapporteur of the directive, declared: “Today’s vote has shown, once again, how seriously this Parliament takes worker protection. With this third proposal amending the carcinogens and mutagens directive, we have improved the long-term working conditions of over one million workers in the Union and for the first time we have demanded stricter controls on dangerous drugs.”

 

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