The European Parliament has approved a law banning a wide-range of single-use plastic items, such as straws, cotton buds and cutlery, by 2021.
Final implementation of the legislation is expected in the next few weeks.
The law, which was supported by 560 Members of the European Parliament against 35 on Wednesday, stipulates that 10 single-use plastic items will be banned in order to curb ocean pollution.
MEPs also agreed a target to collect and recycle 90% of beverage bottles by 2029.
“Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world,” the European Commission’s first vice-president Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for sustainable development, said in a statement.
The new plans come after the EC found that plastics make up more than 80% of marine litter, which has disastrous effects on wildlife and habitats.
The EU parliament notes that because of its slow rate of decomposition, plastic residue has been found in marine species as well as fish and shellfish — and therefore also makes its way into the human food chain.
Under the new European law, tobacco companies will be required to cover the costs for the collection of cigarette butts and manufacturers of fishing gear will also have to pay for the retrieval of any plastic nets that have been left at sea.
There’s also a new focus on further raising public awareness, where producers of items such as tobacco filters, plastic cups, sanitary towels and wet wipes will be required to clearly explain to users how to appropriately dispose of them.
China last year banned the import of 24 varieties of solid waste, including types of plastic and unsorted paper, putting pressure on Europe to deal with its own waste.
The World Economic Forum estimates that there are about 150 million tons of plastic in the world’s seas. A study published in Science in 2015 suggested that between five and 13 million tons more are flowing into them every year.
Research shows there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the world’s oceans by 2050, which has spurred policymakers, individuals and companies into action.
European nations began phasing out plastic bags more than 15 years ago. Dozens of other countries and cities have already imposed bans or restrictions on plastic goods, including microbeads, plastic straws and coffee pods.