The European Parliament has voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics by 2021 in an attempt to stop pollution of the oceans.

MEPs backed a ban on plastic cutlery, straws, cotton-buds, drink-stirrers, plates and balloon sticks, which make up over 70% of marine litter, while other items, “where no alternative exists”, like burger boxes and sandwich wrappers, will have to be reduced by 25% in each country by 2025.

EU research states around 150,000 tonnes of plastic are tossed into European waters every year, with an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic entering the world’s oceans annually.

The Belgian MEP responsible for the bill, Frédérique Ries, said it was “a victory for our oceans, for the environment and for future generations.”

“We have adopted the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics. It is up to us now to stay the course in the upcoming negotiations with the Council, due to start as early as November. Today’s vote paves the way to a forthcoming and ambitious directive,” she said.

“It is essential in order to protect the marine environment and reduce the costs of environmental damage attributed to plastic pollution in Europe, estimated at 22 billion euros by 2030.”

The UK will have to incorporate the rules into national law if the ban becomes a fully-fledged directive before the end of a Brexit transition period.

The announcement follows the UK government’s consultation on proposals to ban the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds, launched earlier this week by Environment secretary, Michael Gove.

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