Would a ban on plastic tableware achieve any purpose?
To reduce marine litter the European Union wants to ban single-use plastic plates and cutlery. This ban would not achieve a significant reduction in marine litter and would affect first and foremost the Italian industry.
A sea of imprecision
The EU aims to combat the pollution of the seas due to plastic debris, 90% of which originates from 10 rivers flowing outside Europe, and they plan to achieve this objective by banning plastic plates and cutlery, even though such articles are not even comprised in “the top 10 items washing up on the sea shores”*: How effective can this ban really be?
Dishing out a flat market
It is false that most of the plastic tableware used in Europe comes from countries outside Europe. In actual fact, nearly 50% of the plastic tableware sold in Europe is made in Italy, and a ban on these products would affect first and foremost the Italian industry, which provides jobs for many people.
Is there a viable alternative?
Is there at present any type of single-use products, made of any material other than plastic, that could solve the problem of marine litter? Wouldn’t these products still end up in the seas, since incivility is not a prerogative of plastic alone? Would they be biodegradable in the open air?
Is it a good idea to kill a fly with a cannon?
The plastic used to make plates and cutlery accounts for about 0.6%** of the total quantity of plastic used in Europe.
Let's make a comparison
Pro.mo promoted a comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) of the different types of tableware, The study reveals that on average the environmental impact of the entire life cycle of single-use (polypropylene and polystyrene) plastic tableware is actually lower than that of tableware in bioplastic (polylactic acid – PLA) and cellulose pulp. (The study can be consulted on http://pro-mo.it/en/the-research/). The choice of material should always be based on the impact of the entire life cycle.
Plastic has many lives
The recycling of discarded plastic products, and packaging materials in particular, has reached in Italy rates and quality levels in line with the European average, and the national production of plastic recycling systems and machinery is an excellence.
Recycling, recycling, recycling
We are ready to share with all the players in the production-supply chain a commitment to work out and propose projects designed to raise plastic product recycling rates to the highest possible level. We are ready to promote and increase the use of materials coming from recycling circuits having no negative effects in terms of product quality and consumer safety.
There is no such thing as good and bad products, there are good and bad ways to behave
Single-use plastic plates and cutlery are mostly intended for use in mass events, in an emergency, for small meals or to eat something on the go. In other words, these products are used primarily by ordinary people, who otherwise would have to use alternative items, which, in all likelihood, would turn out to be more costly, or be less functional, or have a bigger impact. Let us combat the waste of valuable resources and punish littering, which is the primary cause of pollution.
From recyclable to recycled
Plastic plates, cups and cutlery are fully recyclableand should be totally included in the packaging material collection and recycling system (at present this is done only partially), to control the streams of these articles, recycle them at the highest possible rate, and make the right contribution to the attainment of recycling and reuse targets.
(*) Source: JRC-CE
(**) Pro.mo estimates based on PlasticsEurope data