Europe can’t solve the plastic crisis
Berliner Zeitung (Germany)
The European Parliament’s new ban on single-use plastic won’t save the world, said Frank-Thomas Wenzel. Don’t get me wrong: The new ban, passed last week and sure to be ratified by most European Union governments, is significant. It prohibits the sale of plastic items such as drinking straws and disposable cutlery, plates, and coffee stirrers, and it mandates the recycling of plastic bottles. Plastic bags are already being phased out by most European nations. But the problem is that the vast majority of plastic choking the world’s oceans doesn’t come from Europe. Instead, some 90 percent comes from “eight large river systems in Asia and two in Africa.” Across those continents, plastic isn’t recycled, but rather buried or dumped, and millions of tons of the stuff wash into the sea each year. By 2050, the plastic in the ocean is expected to outweigh all the fish. If Europeans really want to make a difference, then in addition to banning plastics at home we should send experts—equipped with money and technology—to Asia and Africa. Helping China, India, Vietnam, and other countries “develop modern collection and recycling systems” could make all the difference. But such an expensive and arduous task would be “intangible to EU citizens.” So instead we have only a “gaudy campaign” that makes us feel pious.