Balearic Islands, Spanish frontrunners in banning single-use plastic items by 2020

Amsterdam, February 20, 2018 – Spanish tourist islands in the Mediterranean – Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza – are planning on taking radical measures against  plastic pollution. Their goal is to reduce the number of plastic items that end up in the sea as well as boost reusing and recycling among their citizens and tourists. These measures have been included in a proposition from the Government of the Balearic Islands. By 2020, the islands want to have outlawed the sale of single-use plastics, including plastic cups, plates, cutlery, straws, and bags, as well as wet wipes, disposable lighters and razors, cotton swabs made of plastic, non-reusable printer toners, and non-recyclable coffee capsules.

The measure that caused most controversy is the latter: non-recyclable coffee capsules. The proposition states that the capsules’ material will have to be 100% compostable, considering that, at the moment, these capsules are made of plastic or aluminum and cannot be recycled. A possible solution for companies who manufacture the aforementioned capsules would be to introduce a system in which they are collected and recycled by the manufacturers themselves, just as Nespresso is already doing. This solution was presented by the proposition.

Moreover, the government will force restaurants and bars to offer free tap water to all their customers in an attempt to reduce the amount of plastic bottles sold.

This ambitious decision was made due to the assessment of pollution on the islands: the space is limited and the economy is based on tourism, which increases the usage of disposable items which end up littering streets, beaches and mountains. If the proposal is implemented, non-compliance of these measures could lead to penalties between €300  and €1,7 million.

A recent report from Greenpeace Spain stated that 96% of litter in the Mediterranean Sea is plastic – about 1,455 tons, to be specific. Of all that plastic, 94% is currently coating the seabed and therefore impossible to retrieve. This makes the Mediterranean Sea one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world.

The Balearic Islands’ challenge follows the decision already made by countries such as France and Costa Rica, who are planning on banning single-use plastics in the next two years. Kenya is an example of a country that has already implemented a ban on plastic bags.

Step by step, measures such as those taken by the Spanish region will force big plastic manufacturers to change their production methods, switch to more sustainable materials, and update their production system to a more environmentally-friendly one. It seems that plastic pollution is finally on the agenda of many politicians, which is a long time coming considering the environmental and economical impact that it entails.