Over the course of this year, it seems as though the debate on environmental protection has greatly shifted to the issue of plastics, namely the effects of ill-disposed of waste on marine life.
This is no bad thing; the disastrous consequences of plastic rubbish on the oceans are well-documented, and I’d wager few could see the images and videos of marine animals affected by the waste and not feel inclined to ditch the plastic straw next time they get an iced coffee.
While the intentions behind this new focus are, undoubtedly, good, sadly the responses of governments across the world have been rather heavy-handed and reactionary, to say the least. Legislatures, such as that of the US State of California, have begun rushing out legislation which outright prohibits the use of single-use plastic items, such as straws.
But are further restrictions on single-use plastics really the best route to take, if the EU wishes to reduce its plastic footprint on the oceans? Moreover, what are the externalities of such a measure on the freedom of consumers, and those who rely on plastic items?