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ENVIRONMENT

Germany to ban disposable plastics by mid-2021

German lawmakers approved legislation Thursday banning disposable plastic products such as straws, cutlery and cotton buds that are polluting the world's oceans.

Germany to ban disposable plastics by mid-2021
Photo: DPA

The new law passed by Germany's lower house of parliament will halt the sale of certain single-use plastics by July 2021.

The move brings Germany in line with its European commitments after the EU last year agreed to place tough new restrictions on certain plastic items.

The EU legislation bans around a dozen disposable plastic products for which environmentally friendly alternatives exist, including drink stirrers, chopsticks and plates.

According to the EU Commission, the products prohibited under the law represent 70 percent of the waste that pours into oceans, posing a threat to wildlife and fisheries.

The EU-wide legislation has already prompted fast food giant McDonald's to speed up its move to limit the use of plastics in its European restaurants, including by ditching the plastic lids on McFlurry ice creams.

McDonald's estimates that the change will save more than 1,200 tonnes of plastic a year on the continent.

Environmental group Greenpeace on Thursday criticised the new legislation however for only covering a specific list of single-use plastics instead of a wholesale ban on all such products.

“The way out the plastics crisis can only happen through a real change in packaging away from the disposable to the reusable,” said Viola Wohlgemuth of Greenpeace Germany.

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ENVIRONMENT

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

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On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.

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