As the war on plastic in our oceans wages ever forward, one of the biggest advancements to impact the cause has occurred as the European Parliament voted to ban single-use plastics by 2021.
It is "a victory for our oceans, for the environment and for future generations," said Frédérique Ries, the Parliamentary member representing Belgium who launched the bill.
It passed with a vote of 571-53. The bill calls for a ban on "plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks," according to a BBC report.
An amendment addressing the pollution created by cigarette butts was also included in the legislation. It calls for tobacco companies to reduce their use of plastic in cigarette filters by 50-percent by 2025 and 80-percent by 2030.
Additionally, plastic drink bottles are on the chopping block as the EU looks to collect and recycle 90-percent of all plastic drinks bottles by 2025. The EU report indicates that plastic bottles are responsible for an upwards of 20-percent of the plastic pollution found in our oceans.
Europe is home to one of the biggest surf markets in the world, from the wave-rich coasts of Portugal and France, to the emerging scenes in counties like Germany, Ireland and Norway, European surfers are a dedicated, passionate, powerful group with a lot of social and economic sway. Now they'll have the strength of the EU behind them as they endeavor to save our seas.
In the US, California recently became the first state in the country to legally limit the use of plastic straws in restaurants. The law bans restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws unless asked for by the customer. Enforcement will begin in 2019.
This October WSL PURE and The Surfrider Foundation teamed up to address the issue. World No. 1 Stephanie Gilmore, Mikey Wright, Pauline Ado and other surfers joined Surfrider Foundation Europe for their Ocean Initiatives program, an effort to tackle the marine litter issue through education, citizen science and lobby. The goal was to not only clean local beaches, but broader in scope, the effort also seeks to bring more attention to the impacts of plastic pollution on our oceans.
"Just reducing the plastic bottle, reducing the straws, refusing to use plastic cutlery, all these little things, they add up," said Reece Pacheco, Executive Director of WSL PURE. "We all have a responsibility to do it, and we all, as individuals, can have an impact. I one-hundred-percent believe that it adds up."
Surfrider's data indicates that plastic is the most common type of marine litter worldwide, making up 90-percent of the floating debris out there. The catch is that 80-percent of that comes from land-based sources.
The fight for the health of our playgrounds will continue for years to come, but this latest news from the EU is a very positive step forward.