The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to ban single-use plastic products such as straws, eating utensils and coffee sticks across the European Union.
The measure passed 571 to 53, with 34 abstentions.
If approved by the European Commission — the EU executive — and individual states, the ban would become law in 2021.
Supporters say plastics are a major source of pollution that chokes oceans, litters cities, and can take decades to disintegrate.
Some U.S. cities have moved to ban plastic straws in restaurants after a heartbreaking video of a wildlife rescuer pulling a straw out of a turtle’s bloody nose was posted on the internet earlier this year.
A consortium of European plastics manufacturers called the EU bill “disproportionate” and said banning single-use plastics discourages investment into new ways to recycle.
Polyester and other synthetic fibres like nylon are major contributors of microplastics pollution in the environment, say researchers and suggest switching to biosynthetic fibres to prevent this.
“These materials, during production, processing and after use, break down and release microfibres that can now be found in everything and everyone,” said Melik Demirel, Professor at the Pennsylvania State University in the US.
Synthetic fibres are petroleum-based products, unlike natural fibres such as wool, cotton and silk, which are recyclable and biodegradable.
Mixed fibres that contain both natural and synthetic fibres are difficult or costly to recycle.
In the oceans, pieces of microscopic plastic are consumed by plants and animals and enter the human food chain through harvested fish.
In the study, Demirel suggested few things to prevent this: minimising the use of synthetic fibres and switching to natural fibres such as wool, cotton, silk and linen, even though synthetic fibres are less expensive and natural fibres have other environmental costs, such as water and land-use issues; large scale use of bacteria that could aid in biodegradation of the fibres for reuse; substituting synthetic fibres with biosynthetic fibres, that are both recyclable and biodegradable; and blending synthetic fibres with natural fibres to lend them durability while also allowing the blends to be recycled.