United Nations advises countries to take measures against plastic

 Amsterdam, June 5, 2018 –– Up to now, there have been no international agreements that compel countries to reduce their use of plastic. The most environmentally problematic form of plastic is single-use plastic (SUP). Despite the lack of an internationally binding agreement, countries have taken measures against SUPs themselves; they recognize the seriousness of the plastic pollution problem, and the issue has likely become intolerable for their citizens.

 Today, on World Environment Day, UN Environment has published an extensive review with an oversight of the measures that 50 nations have implemented up to now. Some of these measures are not effective because governments do not follow up on them.

The report, entitled Single-Use Plastics: A Roadmap, gives a summary of the ten most effective steps countries can take. The UN recommends the following measures to governments around the world:

  1. Target the most problematic single-use plastics
  2. Consider the best actions to tackle the problem
  3. Assess the potential social, economic, and environmental impacts
  4. Identify and engage key stakeholder groups
  5. Raise public awareness
  6. Promote alternatives
  7. Provide incentives to industry
  8. Use revenues collected from taxes on single-use plastics to maximize the public good
  9. Enforce chosen measures effectively
  10. Monitor and adjust chosen measures if necessary and update the public on progress

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

Powerful European plastics industry lobby resists European Union measures

Amsterdam/Brussels 24 May 2018 – There is much at stake if the European Union announces measures against growing plastic pollution. The Corporate Europe Observatory researches lobbying activities in Brussels and has analysed that of the plastics industry.

The European Union’s directive was leaked a few weeks ago. It showed that Single Use Plastics (SUP) in particular will be addressed. Products that have alternatives will be banned; other products must have information labels for consumers; and yet others will have to be designed better. The number of SUPs will be reduced and producers will be made responsible for the disposal phase of their products. They will have to pay for the collection and disposal of litter, for example.

It is hardly surprising that the plastics industry started a strong lobby campaign to fight these regulations. The overriding question is whether and to what extent the European Commission will listen to them and propose a strongly reduced package of measures on 28 May.

Corporate Europe Observatory has listed how many times the industry has met with the European Commission and spoken to Euro Parliamentarians; how many full-time lobbyists are employed; and how much money is spent on this. What emerges is that the industry will not comment on voluntary quantitative reduction goals and on what time-scale or what percentage of plastic products should be recyclable or reusable. The comments that the industry does issue hugely diverge from the intentions of the European Commission.

The European Commission says that it will introduce legal measures should the European plastics industry not come up with more ambitious goals itself. The plastics lobby has already responded and has stated that the Commission’s plans are insufficiently founded on scientific evidence and that it would make more sense to voluntarily improve the plastic cycle. The emphasis would then be placed on circularity and the efficient use of resources, thereby continuing the production of unlimited plastic products.

The plastics industry is using all the means it has at its disposal to resist the introduction of a tax on the use of virgin plastics. A tax would make the production of new plastic more expensive and at the same time would make it more attractive to use recycled plastic. These were the Commission’s initial plans, but these have quietly disappeared into the background.

Also read: Investment warning plastic packaging