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Single-Use Plastics Will Be Banned in Europe by 2021

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Plastic straws and beverage containers, like these seen at Barcelona’s La Boqueria market, will be banned in Europe by 2021.

Photo by Goran Vrhovac / Shutterstock

Plastic straws and beverage containers, like these seen at Barcelona’s La Boqueria market, will be banned in Europe by 2021.

Plastic plates, straws, and cutlery will be a thing of the past on future trips to the 28 countries in the European Union.

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In the past year, airlines, hotel brands, local governments, and more have pledged to drastically cut down on the amount of single-use plastics to reduce how much ends up in the oceans. But now an entire continent is joining the cause. On Monday, the European Union approved a ban on certain single-use plastics that will go into effect in 2021.

The new legislation moved through the E.U. within a year, a relatively short time for a government that includes 28 countries. After the European Commission, the E.U.’s executive arm, proposed the restrictions in May 2018, the 751 members of the European Parliament approved the ban in March 2019, Bloomberg reports. The final approval on April 15 by the E.U. governments was a mere formality after the overwhelming support earlier in the year.

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The ban, which will be implemented in all E.U. member countries, includes the single-use plastic items most commonly found on beaches in Europe. That means, starting in 2021, travelers will no longer find the following items on trips to E.U. countries, including France, Italy, Germany, and Spain (to name a few):

  • Plastic plates
  • Plastic cutlery (including forks, knives, and spoons)
  • Plastic straws
  • Oxo-degradable plastic and polystyrene beverage cups and food containers
  • Cotton swabs made with plastic
  • Plastic coffee stirrers
  • Plastic balloon holder sticks

While the new law doesn’t include a full ban on plastic bottles, it includes a 90 percent collection target for those types of containers by 2029. By 2025, the E.U. is mandating that plastic bottles will need to be made with 25 percent recycled material and 30 percent by 2030.

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That said, it’s always better to travel with a refillable water bottle in locations where the tap water is safe to drink. As for everything else? Don’t eat and drink on the go. You’re in Europe. Do as the locals do and stay awhile—whether you’re drinking coffee or lingering over a meal for hours.

>> Next: 8 More Eco-Friendly Accessories for the Thoughtful Traveler

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