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European officials agree ban on some single-use plastics

FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2018 file photo, plastic bottles and other plastics including a mop, lie washed up on the north bank of the River Thames in London. European Union officials agreed on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, to ban some single-use plastics, such as disposable cutlery, plates and straws, in an effort to cut marine pollution. The measure will also affect plastic cotton buds, drink stirrers, balloon sticks, and single-use plastic and polystyrene food and beverage containers. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

European Union officials have agreed to ban some single-use plastics - such as disposable cutlery, plates and straws - in an effort to cut marine pollution.

Representatives from the EU's 28 member states and the European Parliament said they are following a recommendation made earlier this year by the bloc's executive branch.

Once the ban is formally approved, countries will have two years to implement it.

The measure will also affect plastic cotton buds, drink stirrers, balloon sticks, and single-use plastic and polystyrene food and beverage containers.

The EU also wants to increase the use of recycled plastic and reduce the amount of tiny plastic particles released from wet wipes, cigarette stubs and other items.

There is growing concern about the accumulation of so-called microplastics in the oceans.

"When we have a situation where one year you can bring your fish home in a plastic bag, and the next year you are bringing that bag home in a fish, we have to work hard and work fast," said Karmenu Vella, the European commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries.

The European Commission estimates that almost 60% of the 25.8 million metric tonnes of plastic waste produced in the bloc each year comes from packaging, with much of it exported to third world countries rather than recycled.

German environmental group NABU claims that about 350,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste could be prevented in Germany alone with the ban.

And PET bottles sold in the EU will have to contain at least 25% recycled plastic from 2025, rising to 30% by 2030.