Members of the European Parliament yesterday voted overwhelmingly in favour of banning the most commonplace single-use plastic items by 2021, including plastic cutlery, straws, stirrers and balloon sticks.

MEPs in Strasbourg first indicated their support for a ban in December, and voted 560 in favour to pass the final proposals from the European Commission yesterday. Just 35 MEPs voted against the measures.

The new rules will mean that from 2021 single-use plastic cutlery, cotton buds, straws, balloon sticks, and stirrers, will be banned throughout the trading bloc. Member states will also face a 90 per cent collection target for plastic bottles by 2029, and bottles will also need to be made from at least 30 per cent recycled plastic by 2030.

“This legislation will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22bn – the estimated cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030,” said lead MEP 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. This is essential for the planet.”

The directive now needs to be approved by the Council of Ministers before it enters EU law later this year. Member States will have two years to transfer the legislation into national law.

Only a quarter of the plastic waste generated each year in the EU is recycled, and more than 80 per cent of marine litter is plastics. In response to a spike in public concern over marine plastic, many corporates have pledged to voluntarily curb their use of single-use plastic.

But in response to today’s news EuroCommerce, an EU-wide industry groups which boasts IKEA, M&S, Lidl, Carrefour, Amazon and Tesco as members, said the ban must also come with consistent government investment in recycling infrastructure.

“We are as a sector already actively doing our bit in reducing plastic waste, but to do so effectively we need consistent implementation, and the engagement of the whole supply chain and public authorities to achieve real reductions in single-use plastic and marine litter,” said EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren. “Without a proper waste management infrastructure and sufficient recycling facilities we will not achieve a circular economy or the objectives of this directive.”

In related news, Lucozade Ribena Sunstory (LRS), the firm behind drinks brands Ribena and Lucozade, announced plans today to redesign its Ribena bottle to make it easier to recycle. LRS has promised to make all its packaging fully recyclable within the current UK recycling system, and is therefore changing the design of its bottle to cut the use of printed sleeves to leave more of the bottle transparent.

This means automated sorting machines in UK recycling centres will be better able to identify the packaging and ensure that each bottle has the best chance of being recycled back into plastic bottles, LRS explained.

“Lucozade Ribena Suntory takes its sustainability commitments very seriously and we are extremely proud to be announcing this packaging redesign to ensure our brands continue to be as sustainable as possible,” said Michelle Norman, director of external affairs and sustainability at Lucozade Ribena Suntory. “While we continue to make positive changes to our brands it is important that wider changes are made by companies like us, government and industry to ensure recycling rates in the UK can continue to increase.”

By Brian