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EU environment chief: Plastics must be controlled if we are to fight climate change

EU environment chief: Plastics must be controlled if we are to fight climate change

A volunteer displays ear sticks after a garbage collection ahead of World Environment Day at La Costilla Beach on the coast of Rota, Spain, June 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – A gradual reduction in the use of fossil fuel-based plastics will be crucial for tackling climate change, an EU top environmental official stated ahead of a United Nations meeting that will launch talks on a first-of-its-kind treaty to combat plastic pollution.

Plastics production is an area of growth for the oil industry. As countries try to shift away polluting energy resources, but plastic waste is building up in the oceans and urban waters around the world, and choking its wildlife. Read more

A study of ice cores last month revealed for the first time nanoplastics in both the polar and sub-polar regions.

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“The biggest issue is, at the bottom of the day oil use forplastic production,” Virginijus Sinkevicius EU Environment Commissioner during preparations to the U.N. Environment Assembly summit in Nairobi will begin on February 28th.

He told Reuters that if we want to achieve our decarbonisation goals by 2050, we must decrease steadily the use fossil fuels. One of these areas is plastics.

Sinkevicius stated that limiting virgin plastic production was “inevitably an essential part” of a global treaty. However, it was not clear what binding or voluntary requirements would have to be agreed.

He said, “I believe more in binding measures, but of course it’ll be up to us to see what our international counterparts have to say,”

According to the International Energy Agency, petrochemicals, which are fossil fuel-based building blocks that allow for products such as plastics and fertilisers to be made, will account for more than a quarter of the global oil demand growth by 2030.

PepsiCo and Coca Cola (KO.N.) are two of the major consumer brands. However, the UN pact could face resistance from chemical and oil firms as well as major plastic-producing nations like the United States.

Other options for UN deals include improving waste collection and recycling or developing plastics which are easier to use – although Sinkevicius stated that recycling alone would not stop the plastic pollution crisis.

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He stated, “There’s no way we can recycle our way out of this increased waste pile-up.”

The EU, which includes 27 countries, has banned single-use plastic items like straws and cutlery until 2021. France took it one step further by banning plastic packaging from almost all fruits and vegetables this year.

(This story rewrites to remove the superfluous word “as” from the second paragraph.

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Reporting by Kate Abnett; additional reports by Valerie Volcovici. Editing by Philip Blenkinsop & John Stonestreet

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