EU Goes Full Nanny-State: Proposes Ban On Plastic Straws & Cotton Swabs To "Protect Consumers"

American social media firms are still reeling after being hit with a raft of lawsuits on the first day of the European Union's GDPR enforcement last week. And already, the bloc is considering its next piece of nanny-state legislation that would create unprecedented headaches for both the food-service industry as well as the companies that manufacture the plastic products used in restaurants, coffee shops and bars.

Not to mention consumers, who likely would bear the brunt of higher costs associated with the rule.

The EU on Monday unveiled a proposal that would ban single-serving plastic products like straws and plastic cutlery in an attempt to cut down on marine litter. The draft rule would ban the 10 plastic products that, according to the Associated Press, comprise 70% of all the garbage floating around the ocean.

These other items would include disposable food containers, single-use cotton swabs (typically used to clean people's ears), as well as plastic plates and cups often used in fast-food restaurants.

According to the BBC, the EU believes the ban will accomplish a number of desirable goals:

  • Avoid 3.4 million tons of carbon emissions.

  • Prevent 22 billion euros ($25.6 billion) of environmental damage by 2030.

  • Save consumers 6.5 billion euros ($7.6 billion).

To be sure, it will likely be three or four years before these rules take effect - that is, assuming they are passed into law in the first place. Not only would the law need to be approved by the European Parliament, but every EU member state (there are presently 28 member states).


The law would also reduce the sale of these plastic products to households as well, as EU First Vice-President Frans Timmermans points out. The law, Timmermans argues, would go a long way toward preserving the environment as the "harmful" plastic items are replaced with more environmentally friendly (and probably more expensive) products.

"Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem," EU First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said.

"Today's proposals will reduce single-use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures.

"We will ban some of these items and substitute them with cleaner alternatives, so people can still use their favourite products."


"You can still organize a pick-nick, drink a cocktail and clean your ears just like before," Timmermans said.

Timmermans added that the single-serving utensils wouldn't be completely banned - instead, companies would be "encouraged" to use sustainable materials instead of cheap plastic. The new rules would also reduce the sale of these items in supermarkets. Ultimately, the new rules would seek to hold the makers of these items responsible for the environmental harm they cause by ensuring that "it's the polluter that pays," according to the AP.


Bizarrely, industry groups have expressed support for the new rules. But less surprisingly, the notion that the new rules would help "protect" consumers triggered a backlash from conservatives who scoffed at the notion that these rules would somehow improve the quality of life for ordinary working people, who in all likelihood would be forced to pay more for basic household goods from napkins to feminine hygiene products.

Full tyrant indeed as the European Parliament seems to believe that each sovereign nation is unable to decide for themselves. European Green Party lawmaker Monica Frassoni also welcomed the initiative and added that:

“the scale of the problem means that we cannot rely on individual European countries to take action and must instead find a Europe-wide response.”

Producers of these products would be forced to bear some of the costs for environmental cleanup - costs that likely would be passed on to consumers, according to the proposal, a summary of which can be found below (courtesy of DW). The full EU news release can be found here.

  • A ban on the private use of disposable plastic products like straws, plastic plates, plastic utensils, plastic coffee stirrers, cotton swabs with plastic stems and plastic balloon holders.

  • Curbing the use of plastic cups for beverages as well as plastic food containers, such as the ones used for take-away.

  • Producers of certain products will be required to help cover the costs of clean-up and waste treatment, including: tobacco products with filters (such as cigarette butts), plastic bags, candy wrappers, potato chip packages and wet wipes.

  • Menstrual pads, wet wipes and balloons will be required to add a label indicating how the product should be disposed.

  • Producers of fishing gear - which accounts for 27% of beach litter - will be required to cover the costs of waste collection in ports.

  • Each member state should use a deposit system or other measure in order to collect 90% of plastic bottles used in their country by 2025.

  • An increase in consumer information about the dangers of plastic packaging.

EU members would also be forced to require clear labeling on products to "educate" consumers about how their waste impacts the environment. According to data compiled by the consulting firm Eunomia, the UK produces by far the most straws of all EU member states.

 Infographic: Billions of Discarded Straws | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

However, by the time these rules take effect, the UK more likely than not will no longer be a member of the bloc.


JohninMK chippers Tue, 05/29/2018 - 05:03 Permalink

This is all about the reduction of microplastics in oceans which finds its way into both the creatures that live there and our food chain, doing currently unknown amounts of damage.

It seems to me to be an excellent move as business will not do this by themselves. Profit being the motive not the health of their customers. Only Government has the power to impose this kind of change and is is not a "nanny state" move.

I can't see anyone being against it, apart perhaps the shareholders of the affected companies.

In reply to by chippers

css1971 JohninMK Tue, 05/29/2018 - 05:22 Permalink


You'd have been a good little Nazi.


"The party is all-embracing. It rules our lives in all their breadth and depth… There will be no license, no free space, in which the individual belongs to himself. This is Socialism… Let them then own land or factories as much as they please. The decisive factor is that the State, through the party, is supreme over them, regardless whether they are owners or workers."

― Hitler (The Voice of Destruction, Hermann Rauschning, 1940)


In reply to by JohninMK

Zerogenous_Zone MillionDollarButter Tue, 05/29/2018 - 14:05 Permalink

seems most miss the big point...


first...why don't we 'recycle' these whirlpools of trash?  we do send satellites into space, right?  and have drones that can find billions of sunken treasure right?  


false flag, that's why...


second...everyone would love wonderful biodegradable 'utensils' and other 'products'...but at what cost?  and ask yourselves the question of 'where is it made?'...and 'who is making it?'...'forcing' nations (developing or otherwise developed) to ONLY make socio-economically viable goods created from resource from their OWN nation would be Utopian...which is to say it will never happen


and lastly...remember the IMF, World Bank and the UN have nearly completed the 'sectorization' of the globe (think Hunger Games?  or Bernie Sanders?!) and allow for the shipping of a nation's natural resources to third and fourth world countries (think cotton in the US) to have 'indentured servants' (read: slaves) make our underwear and then ship it back to the consumers...


and an estimated 10% of ALL pollution comes from ocean freighting...




In reply to by MillionDollarButter

Ilmarinen DemandSider Tue, 05/29/2018 - 11:12 Permalink

Where I live, they added a 5 cent surcharge for plastic grocery bags a few years back.  Certainly enough to cover disposal costs and to provide a small financial incentive for not wasting the bags, while small enough that people who want them can carry on as before.

I was against the gov't meddling at the time, but after living with this bag rule for a few years I'd say it was a positive change.

In reply to by DemandSider

Eyes Opened css1971 Tue, 05/29/2018 - 07:15 Permalink

What is it about Americans & their unwillingness to contribute to the welfare of the planet ?? I'm no lefty environmentalist or supporter of nanny state tactics but I recognise a good idea when I hear it...

Here (in Ireland) we brought in a plastic bag tax years ago & you know what ? The sky didnt fall in ... before the tax, if you went anywhere you'd see the fuckin things blowin all about. In rural areas, the hedgerows would be festooned with this dirt, now we have a much cleaner country & it didnt involve re-writing the bloody constitution. Peeps just started using the traditional sturdy shopping bags we've ALL used for years...

If you are happy to pollute the planet & consume your way to the grave with GMOs , sugar & pharmaceuticals coming out of yer ying yang ... I am not...

Someone above said "from my cold dead hands...."  for fucks-sake, talk about an over reaction...  the NRA (NEVER RECYCLE ASSOCIATION) would be proud of you...



In reply to by css1971

DemandSider Eyes Opened Tue, 05/29/2018 - 10:28 Permalink

Exactly, we need to restrict the number of cheap manufactured goods imported into The USA. What will Americans do if they can't import PRC made TVs? They'll have to buy them from Americans manufacturers at $1600.00 a pop, and repair them when they break, instead of throwing them away and buying another $400 TV from 7000 miles away via fossil fueled tanker.

Voila, I solved the world's environmental crisis!

In reply to by Eyes Opened

DemandSider JohninMK Tue, 05/29/2018 - 05:59 Permalink

If Europe just told people, "we're going to save umpteen million euros and eliminate a potential hazardous exposure to plastic residues in food", no one would reflexively cringe at that, since it saves money and eliminates a needless threat to the individual.

Plastic straws VS Earth's survival, though, is going to cause many to double up with laughter, as it should, because it sounds, and is, absolutely insane.

In reply to by JohninMK

DemandSider ZENDOG Tue, 05/29/2018 - 08:23 Permalink

Unless you're a bot, you're just as much a part of the problem as any of us. The easiest, most sensible way to stem the waste is to knock off the global labor and regulatory arbitrage. Then, voila, the price of everything of finite availability shoots up, and people are incentivized to buy local, reuse, and repair. Bingo, problem solved. No, the neoliberal order benefiting from this scam would rather we focus on straws and balloons. Laughable.

In reply to by ZENDOG

DemandSider shovelhead Tue, 05/29/2018 - 09:40 Permalink

I'm in Minnesota, I'd need a rocket to throw my plastic in the ocean. So, it's cheaper and easier for me to just put it into the garbage, where it gets burned to make electricity, or put it in bin and some company recycles it, allegedly. Then, again, I mix my own tea and drink it out of a glass bottle, because plastic stinks after a couple of days. I never drink Wall Street's carbonated sugar chemicals, and buying water is like buying air, to me, incredibly stupid. I notice politicians and public speakers drink a lot of bottled water, and people who play tennis. Take it up with them. I'm way to cheap.

In reply to by shovelhead

besnook JohninMK Tue, 05/29/2018 - 07:18 Permalink

getting rid of perpetual plastic is a noble goal but this law doesn't leave any room for paper straws that were used before plastic straws took over so they are just being stupid. in other words, can you have a reusable plastic straw? or any other reusable plastic substitute?

it is a good idea, otherwise. we've had a plastic bag ban for several years now but the caveat is the bags are still available but you have to pay a nickel for each bag or bring your own bags or boxes. portable food containers have to be biodegradable but, so far plastic straws are still okay to use.

i object to making fishermen pay for all of beach cleanup when it is claimed that they are responsible for 27% of it. i'd prefer a pollution tax on the plastic makers set aside to pay for the cleanup of the plastic litter that results including the garbage that ends up in landfills.


it is not that big of a personal adjustment to use substitute products or behavior but the eu needs to take a deeper look at their plan to make everyone responsible(including the manufacturers and distributors) and not just the consumers.

In reply to by JohninMK

silverer JohninMK Tue, 05/29/2018 - 09:05 Permalink

Government should be a purveyor of information, nothing more. Then I see the task for the government is to educate people about what you have described, and let them decide based on the information that what they are buying is not good, and if they have a half a brain, will decide to make a good decision. What we see now is the government spending millions of tax dollars to collect information that it then hoards, because information gives governments power. They take that information away from the people. That's why governments fail.

In reply to by JohninMK

Amicus Curiae JohninMK Tue, 05/29/2018 - 09:22 Permalink

we used to use paper plates and cups but they werent "nice" cos they use...trees

so are they all going to swap to bamboo?

and how the hell they can ban or limit containers for mall  type meals or frozen dinners?

it might sound  ok in some instances like wtf? people need to use straws for anyway? go back to old waxed paper there too if you must

swabs bamboo or wood again no worries

their claims of X tonnes a day in oceans seem farfetched and if shit IS going there then look to africa asia and places like maldives!

give em some BIN it lessons maybe?


In reply to by JohninMK

LA_Goldbug JohninMK Tue, 05/29/2018 - 09:50 Permalink

My friend, an excellent move would be to go after plastic bottles not straws. Straws is a bullshit way to imply that they are concerned about plastics. Business has noticed that more and more articles are appearing showing the consequences of plastics so they are using this to SHOW that they are doing "something". I would love to see NUMBERS of the weight of straws in the environment versus bottles !!!! I will make a bet that straws are a small %.

In reply to by JohninMK