The EU did not consider the increase in toxic PFAS chemicals when it decided to ban single-use plastic straws, the bloc’s environment commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius, has admitted.
After banning single-use plastic straws from the entirety of the EU in 2021, the bloc has been flooded with alternatives made of bamboo and paper.
These replacements are now prompting health concerns from some politicians, with one report highlighted by Identity and Democracy (ID) group MEP Roman Haider noting that these new straws contain significant levels of potentially harmful perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Known as “forever chemicals”, PFAS are known to stay in the environment and the human body for long periods of time, with many scientists concerned that they could have negative impacts on both humans and natural ecosystems.
Writing in response to the concerns, Sinkevičius admitted the problems surrounding PFAS chemicals were not even considered when the EU first implemented its ban on plastic straws.
“Possible risks arising from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were not assessed in this context,” he said.
The EU was now looking at addressing the problem with another piece of legislation aimed at phasing out PFAS chemicals “unless proven essential for society”.
Sinkevičius also appeared to dry and deflect blame away from the Commission, suggesting that the body had encouraged businesses to stop using single-use straws entirely in favour of reusable alternatives.
Many of these reusable straws — such as those made out of stainless steel — do not contain PFAS chemicals, the commissioner noted.
Ursula von der Leyen’s Green Deal looks set to be diluted, with the agricultural lobby pushing key elements back until after May 2024’s EU elections. https://t.co/u7EFIqJGMv
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) November 7, 2023