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A minus point for PLUS supermarket

Amsterdam, 15 August 2019 – The PLUS supermarket chain sells lightweight plastic cutlery and plastic plates saying that these are sustainable because they can be used one hundred times. The Plastic Soup Foundation had previously qualified this as absurd. In a Distrifood press release, PLUS is sticking to its position. ‘These utensils can be used many times, even 100 times, and are considerably stronger than the previous versions. They can be washed in the dishwasher and be used in the microwave.’ Citing these reasons, PLUS is skirting around European legislation.

Dishwashable utensils

In November 2018, PLUS had announced its intentions in a press release: ‘By including dishwashable crockery and cutlery in its range, PLUS, the Meest Verantwoorde Supermarkt (most responsible supermarket) leads the way in European policy that will soon ban disposable plastics. The European ban will help tackle the plastic soup in the seas and oceans. PLUS is replacing the plastic disposable items with items that are less detrimental to the environment … Adding dishwashable utensils in the PLUS range is a new step towards less disposable plastic.’ And ‘PLUS will make next year’s BBQ season more sustainable by offering dishwashable and reusable crockery and cutlery. These products do not need to be thrown away anymore … They can be reused for more than one hundred times.’

Misleading

You can see from a mile away that this plastic crockery and cutlery will mostly be sold for single use. The crockery and cutlery have hardly changed in appearance, design, and price. The claim that they are ‘dishwashable’ changes little or nothing in terms of customers deciding whether or not to buy them, let alone encouraging them not to throw them away after one use.

Washing is not reusing

The European Guidelines on reducing the impact of certain plastic products on the environment bans disposable cutlery in 2021. This is not up for negotiation. PLUS is skirting around the ban by calling disposable cutlery dishwashable and therefore reusable. However, for the European Commission, the number of times that a product can be used or washed is not the standard. It maintains a completely different definition of reuse. Its intention in terms of reuse refers to return systems in which the product goes back to the manufacturer or retailer after use, for example by imposing a deposit return system.

A minus point for PLUS that should, of course, know this.


Also read – PLUS SUPERMARKET WORKS AROUND THE EUROPEAN BAN ON SINGLE-USE PLASTICS

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ECHA proposes to ban intentionally added microplastics

BEAT THE MICROBEAD COALITION: “THIS IS A HUGE VICTORY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND HUMAN HEALTH!”

Amsterdam, 30 January 2019 – The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) proposed today, on request of the European Commission, to ban intentionally added microplastics in cosmetics, detergents, paints, agricultural and industrial products. These microplastics are released into the environment and pose a risk to the environment and human health. According to ECHA, an EU-wide ban is justified.  

The Beat the Microbead coalition, running since 2012 and supported by 98 NGOs from 41 countries, is delighted with ECHA’s proposal. Jeroen Dagevos, Head of Programs at the Plastic Soup Foundation and leader of the Beat the Microbead campaign: “We consider the proposal by ECHA to restrict intentionally added microplastics as a big step forward in controlling the microplastic menace.” 

The Beat the Microbead coalition also welcomes the obligation for industry to be transparent about potential risks and to introduce new labelling requirements. Industry’s argument that a ban should be restricted to scrubs and cleansing products only is rightfully rejected by ECHA.

If adopted, the proposed restriction could result in a microplastics emissions reduction of about 400 thousand tonnes over 20 years.

Dagevos: “We are especially happy with the fact that ECHA recommends microplastics to be treated in the same way as persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic substances are treated within REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of Chemicals).”

REACH is currently the strictest chemical regulation in the world.

Intentionally added microplastics are likely to accumulate in terrestrial and aquatic environments. They can be extremely persistent, last for thousands of years and are practically impossible to remove. Concentrations in hotspots like some coastal areas already exceed tentative effect thresholds. Microplastics should therefore be restricted to minimize release as the current situation is not adequately controlled

“Of course,” says Dagevos, “there are also a few points of criticism:

  • The transition period of 4-years and 6-years for rinse-off and leave-on cosmetics respectively, is much too long. Alternatives to microplastic ingredients are widely available on the market. More than 60 brands under our ‘Zero Plastic Inside’ certification prove that it is possible to make quality products without adding microplastic ingredients.  
  • We would not prefer a lower size limit in the definition of microplastics of 1 nanometer. Especially, because nano-plastics are increasingly considered as a risk to marine and terrestrial life, including humans.
  • We regret the exclusion of semi-solid and liquid polymers, which we consider as a possible threat for human health.”

Dagevos: “But above all, we call upon the European Commission to fully adopt the ECHA proposal and also hope it will inspire other countries around the world to follow”.  

Notes:

See: ECHA proposes to restrict intentionally added microplastics

See also: the video released by ECHA at the end of 2018

See also: our previous position paper concerning regulation microplastics: The BTMB campaign demands restriction of all intentionally added microplastics under REACH  

See also:  our test on microplastics in so called ‘stay on’ products like lipstick, nail polish here!

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The advance towards EU taxing on virgin plastic

Amsterdam, 28 November 2018– Is there even basic political support for a European tax on virgin plastic? It would appear so. Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources suggested just this, last January already. The EU Green Party also began a campaign this year for the introduction of a tax on plastic manufacturers. At the very same time, the packaging industries are leading strong lobbying aimed at preventing any kind of tax on plastic and advocating purely voluntary measures being taken, if any.

The European Commission (EC) wants to see much more plastic being recycled. There is no announcement of any tax to stimulate that at all in the Plastics Strategy. Instead, the EC required the industry to promise to clean up their act, on a voluntary basis, just this last summer. From among the 65 pledges received by the Commission, it transpires that European recyclers in 2025 could recycle 10 million tonnes of plastic. However, going on this week’s press release on the subject, the EC has identified a huge problem. They may very well say there are 10 million tonnes of plastic for recycling, but there is only actual demand for 5 million tonnes.

Plastic manufacturers want to (re)use only good quality recycled plastic. Frans Timmermans, European Commissioner for Better Regulation (etc.) said: “We will now analyse which should be the next steps to further boost the uptake of recycled plastics and close the gap between supply and demand”. From the press release, it appears that this further analysis, to be published by the EC early 2019, does not exclude new laws and economic incentives. Nicely bringing tax on virgin plastic into the picture.

The discussion on levies for virgin plastic has been given a boost within the UK recently. The core message taken from last week’s report as distributed among UK MPs is that companies are taxed specifically when they use non-recycled plastic, or plastic with too low a percentage of recycled content. The report was written for the WWF and Resource Association, by the Eunomia advisory.

This suggested method of operation will make it more expensive to make new (packaging) plastic. Meaning, an overall reduction in the amount of plastic, a reduction in the use of raw materials, and a reduction in CO2 emissions besides. On the other side of the coin, it makes it financially more attractive to make and use recycled plastic, given that that will remain free of any levy.

Maria Westerbos, MD of The Plastic Soup Foundation says: “We have long advocated a tax on primary packaging plastic. We urgently call upon the Dutch government to show their hand, anticipate this trend and lead the way in support of the levying of a tax on virgin plastic within Europe.”


Also read:
Breaking news eu announces tax on plastic

Over 30 kilos of plastic waste per person a year and barely recycled

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ECHA:“Microplastics accumulate in soil and waterways”

Amsterdam, 23 November 2018 – According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) microplastics are much more likely to accumulate in soil and waterways than in oceans. Commissioned by the European Commission, ECHA collects and analyses information about the risks to the environment and health caused by intentionally added microplastics in products.

Early next year ECHA will publish a report with recommendations for measures on the basis of which the European Commission can decide to prohibit manufacturers adding microplastics to their products. A restriction on their use is then regulated under REACH. Currently polymers are exempted from the REACH procedure for admission of products on the European market.

ECHA presented its initial findings at a press conference: there is abundant evidence that microplastics have invaded food chains, that they accumulate in the environment and that they do not degrade. It is difficult to tackle this problem other than at  the source. A PowerPoint presentation explains the situation and ECHA points out the effect of the Beat the Microbead-campaign. That campaign — led by the Plastic Soup Foundation — has generated much attention for the problem. Individual Member States now consider a ban on micro plastics in cosmetics.

In their presentation ECHA also points out that microplastics in care products perform many functions other than exfoliating. On a voluntary basis, the cosmetics industry has so far only removed the microplastics that fulfil an exfoliating function from the formulas. This means the problem is far from being resolved.

Earlier this year consultation meetings took place in which the Plastic Soup Foundation also gave its opinion and brought to the attention the Beat the Microbeaddata file that offers insight into the question of which microplastics are to be found in which care products of which brands.

The Agency released a video (see below) in which the Director of ECHA, Bjorn Hansen, tells that ECHA will formulate recommendations for the European Commission on the basis of the study. Jeroen Dagevos, head of programmes at the Plastic Soup Foundation, also appears in the video.

Maria Westerbos, Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “Six years after we started the Beat the Microbeadcampaign in 2012, we seem to be on the verge of a European prohibition of all microplastics in all cosmetics. I am very confident that ECHA will make strong recommendations that the European Commission cannot and should not ignore.”


Also read:

From plastic soup to plastic poop
Beat the microbeat campaign demands restriction of all intentionally added microplastics

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Over 30 kilos of plastic waste per person a year and barely recycled

Amsterdam, 2 November 2018 – The European Commission is taking a series of measures to reduce the number of plastic packaging. In its document, ‘Changing the way we use plastics’, it states that the average European produced 31 kilograms of plastic packaging waste in 2014. Englishman Daniel Webb put it to the test. Throughout 2017, artist Webb collected all the plastic packaging from the groceries he bought. He ended up very close to the European average with 29 kilos.

Webb not only created a piece of art that shows the amount of plastic one person produces, but also analyzed that mountain of waste in detail. The numbers are represented in his report ‘Everyday plastic. What we throw away and where it goes’. The 29 kilos consisted of 4,490 pieces of plastic: a daily average of 12. Extrapolated to all UK residents we’re talking about 295 billion pieces of plastic being discarded in one year. Of all the plastic he collected, 93% was plastic packaging that could only be used once (single use). 67% of this was used to package food.

What happens to all the collected plastic waste? Webb calculated that a mere 4% of the plastic waste he produced is recycled. This turns out to be an entirely different number from the one the European Commission uses. The European Commission poses in the mentioned document that 40% of all plastic packaging was recycled in 2015. Ten times as much. Is that right? And how can we explain this huge deviation in percentages?

The European Commission based its research on numbers from PlasticsEurope and Eurostat. A more detailed explanation and recent numbers can be found in the Plastic Facts report by PlasticsEurope. In 2016, 16.7 million ton of plastic packaging waste was collected in the European Union. Of this collected waste 40.9% was recycled, 20.3% dumped and 38.8% burned (winning back energy). Of course, there are differences per country, but according to this report the UK belongs in the category of countries with 40 to 45% recycling.

The first deviation is that Webb looked at what British councils do and don’t collect for recycling. He gives an example. Plastic containers made of PET for tomatoes are 100% recyclable. The containers are collected by 76% of the councils in the UK, but only 32% of the containers are collected with recycling in mind. Because only 32% of the tomato containers are recycled, he uses this percentage. By then applying this approximation to all plastic waste items, Webb comes to the conclusion that only 10% of his plastic waste is collected for recycling.

A second deviation is that Webb focusses on recycling in the UK itself, whereas the European Union and the plastic industry also add the plastic waste that is exported. That last part is dubious, because it’s unclear what the receiving countries do with the plastic waste. Webb calculates that the United Kingdom exports 63% of its plastic waste. You can’t just blindly consider that 63% as recycling.

Webb comes to the conclusion that a mere 4% of his plastic waste is truly recycled. The European plastic industry goes by ten times that.

How a broader definition of the industry fools us all.

 

Photograph: Artwork by Webb with plastic waste collected by himself.

European Parliament takes historic decision against plastic pollution

Strasbourg, 25 October 2018 – Yesterday in the European Parliament an overwhelming majority voted in favour of a considerable reduction of single-use plastics. More than 87 percent (571 Members of Parliament) brought out a positive vote. In a ground-breaking decision, manufacturers of plastic packaging, cigarettes and fishing nets will have to contribute to the cost of cleaning up their waste. So far, these costs were passed on to the society. From now on manufacturers will be held responsible for the pollution caused by their products.

The European Parliament went even further than the European Commission’s proposal earlier this year. EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans, among others, often spoke out in favour of the so-called Plastics Strategy and was awarded the Plastic Soup Foundation’s ‘Politieke Pluim’ (Political Compliment) last week.

Firstly, the measures contain a ban starting 2021 on the single-use plastics that are found to be the most common litter in the seas, such as plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks and cotton swabs. Parliament has expanded this list to include products of oxygen-degradable plastic and expanded polystyrene (such as fast-food boxes). In addition, Member States must draw up national plans to encourage multiple use or recycling. Other types of plastics that can be recycled, such as drinking bottles, must be collected and recycled, with a target of 90 percent in 2025. Reaching this target is only feasible if deposit systems are introduced or extended.

Reduction targets have also been established for cigarette butts because these also contain plastic. Waste from tobacco products should be reduced by 50 percent in 2025 and by 80 percent in 2030. Furthermore, Member States must ensure that annually at least 50 percent of lost fishing nets are collected. Fishing nets are responsible for 27 percent of the waste that is found on European beaches.

Jeroen Dagevos, head of programmes at the Plastic Soup Foundation, welcomes the European decision: “I’m pleased that the European Parliament has taken this decision. It is a good first step. Now, firm action is required to stop the growth of plastic production.”

Next week the environment ministers of the EU Member States will speak about the legislative text, after which this will go through European Parliament once more and will then finally be presented to the European government leaders for approval.

Read the European Parliament press release.

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Polluting drink multinationals lobby against fixed caps

Amsterdam, 18 October 2018 – Soft drink caps are one of the most common items found on beaches. The caps are made of a plastic that floats, while PET plastic bottles sink. Last May, the European Commission proposed a new directive to reduce the plastic soup. The plans are in part based on the items that are most commonly found on beaches. It is therefore only to be expected that the European Commission wants to make it mandatory that caps be attached to bottles. After all, this has been successful with the pull tags of drink cans. The vote on the new directive is due next Wednesday. In the meantime, the lobby machine of the soft drinks companies are working hard to reverse this step. According to an investigationpublished earlier this month into the most commonly found brands, the top three polluters are Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé. These three companies, together with Danone, sent a lobby letter to the European Commission. In the leaked letter, as reported by De Standaard, they state that the intended measure will not lead to the desired result. Instead, they believe that a deposit or other collection system will enable at least 90% of all bottles, including caps, to be collected by 2025. In the meantime, should it appear in 2021 that this approach is not viable, fixed caps can still be made mandatory. The Independent also reported on the story.

“If this proposal is accepted we will start introducing the mentioned commitments immediately,” the four companies promise. This sounds like blackmail as article 9 of the European Union’s proposal is already to have a collection of 90% in 2025.

According to Recycling Netwerk, the soft drinks industry is refusing to take important action to reduce litter. Recycling Netwerk summarises the industry’s tactics, saying that the companies are trying to postpone new measures to sometime in the future to gain time in the hope that the next European Commission will no longer introduce the directive.

The multinationals emphasise that a deposit system would be effective in attaining the goals. This is ironic given that they are resisting introducing a deposit system in countries such as Belgium, France and Spain. The four multinationals further state that in the Netherlands and Germany in March next year, they will assess the percentage of caps collected through the deposit system. But what they forget is that in the Netherlands, the deposit is only levied on large bottles and not on the small bottles. This is why small bottles are found everywhere as litter. In a report, CE Delft believes that 50-100 million plastic bottles, including the caps, end up as litter.

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation says that “The soft drinks industry’s lobby letter unintentionally shows how important it is to impose a deposit system on allplastic drinks bottles andto ensure that the caps are attached to the bottle. Its attempt to avoid the proposed mandatory cap system clearly shows that cost reduction is always much more important than looking after the environment.”


Also read:
Coca Cola largest plastic polluter
European Commission proposal to reduce single use plastic

Unprecedented heavy lobby against European Commission proposals

Amsterdam, 15 September 2018 – With a knife in the back, the European plastic and packaging industry is showing its true colours. The European Commission proposed a new Directive last May which revolves around dealing with single-use plastic by banning certain plastic products like drinking straws and disposable cutlery, and making producers responsible for the waste phase of their products.

Last month, the plastic and packaging industry responded to the proposal with a statement signed by 68 companies in the industry. The Afvalfonds signed for the Netherlands and Fost Plus signed for Belgium.

The plastic and packaging industry’s statement in particular objects to article 8 which says that producers should be made responsible for clearing up single-use plastic. It argues that industry is not responsible, but the polluting citizens themselves. There is limited awareness and waste collection is poorly organised. The lobby’s object is clear: to continue to produce unlimited amounts of plastic and to keep the production costs to a minimum.

An alliance of environmental organisations, including the Plastic Soup Foundation, has expressed its concern about the plastic and packaging industry’s position and has itself produced a statement which argues the case for each point raised by the industry. The plastic and packaging industry should not attack the proposed Directive but should embrace it, recognise its own responsibility and not continue shoving the responsibility on consumers.

European tax on plastic misses the point

Amsterdam, 29 May 2018 – The European Commission presented its proposal yesterday for a new Directive to reduce certain types of plastic and their negative impact on the environment. The proposal points to the need to reduce Single Use Plastic (SUP) but does not include reduction goals. One major shortcoming of the proposal is that it does not include any financial instruments to make reduction a reality.

At the start of this year, European Commissioner Oettinger for Budget and Human Resources announced a “plastic tax”. The Plastic Strategy, that was published shortly thereafter, revealed that the feasibility of this plan still had to be assessed. The proposal that was published yesterday makes no mention of a European tax on plastic.

Tax on the use of new plastic throughout the European Union would be an effective tool. On the one hand, it would make new plastic more expensive to produce while, on the other hand, making it more attractive to recycle old plastic.

Despite this, the Euro Commission recently announced a different tax on plastic in line with the new European budget. This tax is everything but an EU wide tax as was originally intended. Instead, it proposes that every member state pay € 0.80 to Europe for every kilo of non-recyclable packaging.

This proposal misses the point entirely and will not lead to a reduction in the use of plastic and tackling the plastic soup. The emphasis on reducing plastic has now been shifted from production to recycling. Producers of plastic can simply keep on producing it. And who will end up paying for plastic? Tax payers and not producers who are responsible for this plastic in the first place. Furthermore, packaging makes up only 40% of all the plastic produced.

Bas Eickhout (member of the GroenLinks party) European Member of Parliament started a campaign for a tax on plastic that will reduce plastic production. Sign the petition here.


Also read: European commissions proposal to reduce single use plastic

European Commission’s Proposal to Reduce Single-Use Plastic

Brussels/Amsterdam, May 28, 2018 — The European Commission is fighting the plastic soup. The proposal for a separate Directive that was presented in Brussels today is a step in the right direction, but one that does not go far enough.

Europe is taking on Single Use Plastics (SUP). Several plastic products, such as disposable cutlery, stirrers, cotton earbuds, and straws, will be banned entirely under the proposed document. For these products, alternatives exist. Other plastic products will be labeled to inform buyers, and still others must be designed better.

Producers will be held accountable for the disposal phase of their SUP products; in 2025, 90% of plastic bottles must be collected by their manufacturers. The European Commission considers this feasible with the implementation of deposit schemes. Producers will also have to pay for cleaning up stray plastic, including cigarette filters. These plans are based on the plastic items that are most frequently found on beaches. Additional specific rules are proposed to prevent fishnets from ending up in the ocean permanently.

According to European Commissioner Frans Timmermans, the proposed Directive is incredibly ambitious. It may even be the world’s most ambitious legislative measure to diffuse the plastic crisis. In his own words, “Europe is leading the way”, as he stated during the press conference. Citizens of Europe have given the commission the mandate for this initiative. Timmermans pointed out that 95 percent of Europeans consider measures against SUP necessary and urgent.

No matter how ambitious the proposal may be, the crucial question is whether it is ambitious enough. The banning of even a few plastic products is, above all, a symbolic measure. Large quantities of (unnecessary) plastic packaging, 59% of all plastics, are hardly or not at all restricted in the proposal. No concrete reduction targets have been formulated, and the emphasis is placed on recycling rather than on reduction. There are even more shortcomings. While the commission says that people’s health is an important starting point, there is nothing presented about reducing harmful chemical additives, including hormone-disrupting substances. A proposal for a European tax on plastic is also missing; any tax measures are left to the Member States to decide upon.

Read the press release about the Directive here and see a summary of the press conference here


Also read: Powerful European plastics industry lobby resists European Union measures