The Truth About Plastic Tableware

The Truth About Plastic Tableware

Is it true that the elimination of plastic tableware will lead to a reduction in pollution?

Scientific studies have shown that plastic tableware has a lower environmental impact compared to bioplastic.

As the media has extensively documented, the European Commission has launched a long-term plan to ban a number of disposable plastic products.

The first point of clarification is around the timing of implementation. The media paints a picture of soon-to-be sad and empty shelves in supermarkets aisles dedicated to plastic products. This is far from reality as the European standards on plastics will require a long process, first for approval by the European Parliament and then subsequently to be adopted by Member States.
The second point of clarification concerns the products affected by the European legislative intervention. The ban will cover cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink mixers and balloon rods.
Food containers, beverage containers (as long as caps and lids remain attached to the container) and beverage cups (so even plastic cups) remain permitted, for which only reduction targets are required.
What is the reason for these exclusions? The European Commission press release states that the ban on production was established only for those products "where the alternatives are readily available and economically accessible".
The third key point concerns the results we hope to achieve with these standards. The premise taken as fact is that such changes will ensure a drastic drop in pollution, especially those of the seas, the so-called marine litter. However, some studies have shown that this premise could be wrong.

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study shows that the environmental impact of plastic disposable tableware, both polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS) is on average lower than that of compostable polylactic acid (PLA) and cellulose pulp (materials on which, however, DOpla is already investing in, with a plant entirely dedicated to this type of product).

The study, cited by the European Commission itself and positively evaluated by SGS, a world leader in certification services - examines the entire life cycle of a product rather than just the final phase of disposal of the "waste" product.

As you can read in this article (article in Italian), the President of Pro-mo (a group of Italian tableware manufacturers) Marco Omboni, states that the aforementioned study "is a useful tool for various interested parties to obtain a greater understanding of the issues related to the life cycle of products and its related environmental impacts".
Finally, marine litter is a global issue. Some studies have suggested that the 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88–95% of the global load into the sea. These are rivers located in Asia and Africa. In Europe, the plastic we use in the production of disposable tableware account for less than 3% of that used in the entire packaging sector.

These findings lead to another possible conclusion: the problem is not plastic, but our collective habits towards recycling, as consumers, producers and recyclers; and our respect for the delicate balance of nature.

As stated on the Commission's website "It is clear that the marine litter produced by the Union is only part of a problem that has a global reach, but with this initiative the European Union will take a leading role and will be in a position to lead the change worldwide, through the G7 and the G20 and the implementation of the UN's sustainable development goals. "