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Greenpeace Russia has discovered half a ton of plastic fragments on the coast of the Black Sea and the Azov Sea.

Greenpeace Russia has discovered half a ton of plastic fragments on the coast of the Black Sea and the Azov Sea.

In November 2018, Greenpeace experts assessed the level of plastic pollution in the Black and Azov Seas. On the beaches 13,000 fragments were found, ranging from tiny pieces of unknown origin to 100 kilogram ship ropes.

Locations of GP study

The main sources of pollution are tourists, waste from other countries brought by currents, and maritime shipping.

Most of the plastic found is determined to be single-use packaging or goods. In the Black Sea, the share of such plastic is almost 68%, on the Azov Sea – up to 90%. The main pollutant of the latter was bottles, and the Black Sea coast was filled with styrofoam.

“We have now witnessed that plastic pollution is a real problem for the Black and Azov seas. On the hundred-meter sections of the coast, we found from 435 to 3,501 pieces of plastic. Even the borders of the Utrish nature reserve are littered. We found 1,001 plastic pieces in one monitored area and 2,991 pieces in the other. This is mainly one-off goods, packaging and bags that are all trash we can consciously avoid. Today in Russia there is no regulations over plastic pollution of the environment. There are no holistic measures to prevent it. Greenpeace urges the Government of the Russian Federation to develop a national system for monitoring plastic contamination and approve a list of single-use goods, containers and packaging that should be banned step by step. We cannot resolve this issue otherwise,” says Alexander Ivannikov, an expert at the Zero Waste project of Greenpeace Russia.

Interestingly, the more difficult it was for people to have access to an area, the higher its level of plastic contamination was. This may be due to the fact that such areas are less likely to be cleaned, while debris is still washed ashore.

Single-use plastic items pollute the environment, decompose for hundreds of years and harm animals. Sea inhabitants and birds often become its victims, mistaking pieces of plastic for food or getting entangled in them. According to the British government, plastic ends up in stomachs of 31 species of marine mammals and 100 species of seabirds.

On the method

During the expedition, Greenpeace experts used the methodology for monitoring marine debris on the beaches, which was developed by the DeFishGear project. The data collected was one of the reasons for the European Commission to ban certain types of plastic products.

According to the methodology, Greenpeace experts chose hundred-meter areas (polygons): 5 – on the Black Sea coast and 3 – on the Sea of Azov. From the surface of polygons, visually distinguishable fragments of plastic were collected, their number was counted, they were weighed and sorted by purpose / type of product.

Shanghai begins new waste sorting era, as China eyes cleaner image

Shanghai begins new waste sorting era, as China eyes cleaner image

Recyclables such as plastic must be separated from wet garbage, dry garbage and hazardous waste under the new rules in Shanghai. Photo: AFP

 

  • The city’s ambitious waste and recycling rules took effect on Monday, aiming to emulate successes of comparable policies in Japan, Taiwan and California

  • President Xi Jinping has urged China – the world’s second-biggest waste producer after the United States – to sort rubbish better

At 9pm, Li Zhigang was sitting in front of his fruit shop on a bustling street in central Shanghai’s Xujiahui area, peeling the thin layers of plastic from rotten pears and mangoes.

“This is so much trouble!” he mumbled to himself while throwing the plastic into one trash can and the fruit into another.

In the past, Li simply threw away what could not be sold with the packaging on, but from July 1 he could be fined up to 200 yuan (about US$30) for doing so.

Like Li, many of the tens of millions of residents in the eastern Chinese city have been complaining in recent weeks that the introduction of compulsory household garbage sorting is making life difficult, but at the same time have been having to learn to do it.

Calls for garbage sorting have brought little progress in China in the past decade, but Shanghai is leading a fresh start for the world’s second-largest waste producer with its new municipal solid waste (MSW) regime, observers have said.

China generated 210 million tonnes of MSW in 2017, 48 million tonnes less than the United States, according to the World Bank’s What a Waste database.

“If we say China is now classifying its waste, then it’s Shanghai that is really doing it,” said Chen Liwen, a veteran environmentalist who has worked for non-governmental organisations devoted to waste classification for the past decade.

“It’s starting late, comparing with the US, Japan or Taiwan, but if it’s successful in such a megacity with such a huge population, it will mean a lot for the world,” she said.

A cleaner re-sorts household waste left at a residential facility in Shanghai. Photo: Alice Yan

Household waste in the city is now required to be sorted into four categories: wet garbage (household food), dry garbage (residual waste), recyclable waste and hazardous waste.

General rubbish bins that had previously taken all types of household waste were removed from buildings. Instead, residents were told to visit designated trash collection stations to dispose of different types of waste during designated periods of the day.

Companies and organisations flouting the new rules could be fined 50,000-500,000 yuan (US$7,000-70,000), while individual offenders risked a fine of 50-200 yuan.

The city’s urban management officers will be mainly responsible for identifying those who breach the rules.

Huang Rong, the municipal government’s deputy secretary general, said on Friday that nearly 14,000 inspections had been carried out around the city and more than 13,000 people had been warned on the issue since the regulations were announced at the start of the year.

As July 1’s enforcement of the rules approached, it became a much-discussed topic among Shanghainese people. A hashtag meaning “Shanghai residents almost driven crazy by garbage classification” was one of the most popular on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.

“My daughter took a box of expired medicine from her workplace to the trash collection station near our home yesterday because she couldn’t find the local bin for hazardous waste,” Li said.

While the measures force a change of habits for most people, they bring opportunities for some.

Du Huanzheng, director of the Recycling Economy Institute at Tongji University, said waste sorting was crucial for China’s recycling industry.

“Without proper classification, a lot of garbage that can be recycled is burned, and that’s a pity,” he said. “After being classified, items suitable to be stored and transported can now be recycled.”

Shanghai’s refuse treatment plants deal with 19,300 tonnes of residual waste and 5,050 tonnes of kitchen waste every day, according to the municipal government. By contrast, only 3,300 tonnes of recyclables per day are collected at present.

Nationwide, the parcel delivery industry used more than 13 billion polypropylene woven bags, plastic bags and paper boxes as well as 330 million rolls of tape in 2016, but less than 20 per cent of this was recycled, according to a report by the State Post Bureau.

Prices of small sortable rubbish bins for home use have surged on e-commerce platforms, while bin makers are also developing smart models in response to new needs.

Some communities are deploying bins that people are required to sign in with their house number to use, and are equipped with a “big data analysis system”. The system records households have “actively participated” and which have not, so that neighbourhood management can publicise their addresses and make house visits, according to a report by Thepaper.cn.

In a residential community in Songjiang district, grocery store owner Nie Chuanguo has found something new to sell: a rubbish throwing service.

He has offered to visit homes, collect waste and throw it into the right bin at a designated time. He charges 30 yuan a month for those living on the ground and first floors, 40 yuan for those on the second and third, and 50 yuan for the fourth and fifth.

“This service will start from July 1. Many people have come to inquire about it,” he said.

According to Du, waste classification is not only about environmental impact or business opportunities. “Garbage sorting is an important part of a country’s soft power,” he said.

For China, it was an opportunity to improve its international reputation, he said. “In the past, Chinese people were rich and travelled abroad, but they threw rubbish wilfully, making foreigners not admit we are a respected powerhouse.”

He added: “It’s also related to 1.3 billion people’s health, since the current waste treatment methods – burying and burning – are not friendly to the environment.”

Shanghai’s part in tackling waste comes amid President Xi Jinping’s repeated calls for the country to sort waste better.

“For local officials, it is a political task,” said Chen, who heads a waste management programme in rural China called Zero Waste Villages.

Huang said the president had asked Shanghai in particular to set a good example in waste classification.

In March 2017, the central government set out plans for a standardised system and regulations for rubbish sorting by 2020, with a target for 46 major cities, including Shanghai, to recycle 35 per cent of their waste by then.

In early June, Xi issued a long statement calling for more action from local governments.

However, it was a long process that required input from individuals, government and enterprises, Du said.

“Japan took one generation to move to doing its waste sorting effectively, so we shouldn’t have the expectation that our initiative will succeed in several years,” Du said.

How China’s ban on plastic waste imports caused turmoil

“The lessons we can learn from Japan include carrying out campaigns again and again, and paying close attention to educating young pupils about rubbish classification.”

Chen echoed that Shanghai’s waste sorting frenzy now was only a beginning.

“What we can see now is that people are being pushed to sort waste by regulators, but what’s next? How shall we keep up the enthusiasm?” she asked.

She suggested that how well officials worked on garbage sorting should be included in their job appraisal, and that ultimately people should pay for waste disposal.

“The key to waste classification, going by international experience, is making polluters pay,” Chen said.

Most of Hong Kong and Taiwan’s dumped plastic bottles come from mainland

There is plenty of experience for Shanghai to learn from in California, where unrecyclable waste is charged for at twice the price of recyclables, and Taiwan, where people are charged only for disposal of residual waste, according to Chen.

Taiwan has one of the world’s most impressive recycling rates, with nearly 60 per cent of its waste between January and October last year having been recycled, according to the Taipei government.

The daily amount of garbage produced per person during that period was about 0.41kg – down substantially from 1.14kg in 1997 – the government said.

Hong Kong has tried to copy the Taipei model over the years but failed, with a recycling rate of MSW slightly above 30 per cent in recent years, according to official data.

The city has recently postponed a mandatory waste charging scheme until late 2020 at the earliest. Under its plan, 80 per cent of household waste will have to go into designated bags and will be priced at an average of 11 HK cents (1 US cent) per litre.

On Friday, Shanghai officials admitted that there were plenty of challenges involved in sorting and transport.

Zhang Lixin, deputy chief of the municipal housing administration, said: “Many property management companies fear the difficulties brought by garbage sorting or are reluctant to implement the new rules.”

The administration trained the heads of more than 200 companies across the city in April, he said.

“We do find that some cleaners and rubbish trucks mix the waste, despite residents being asked to throw different types in different bins,” said Deng Jianping, head of the city’s landscaping and city appearance administration – the government department spearheading the initiative.

In the interests of curbing such practices, they could face fines of up to 50,000 yuan or even have their licences revoked, he said.

Scrap Collector: Environmentalists criticize ‘narrow’ scope of G20 marine plastics goal

Scrap Collector: Environmentalists criticize ‘narrow’ scope of G20 marine plastics goal

Plus: Pacific Island nation to enact world’s first disposable diaper ban, and waste giant Biffa convicted of exporting household trash to China.

 

UPDATE: July 2, 2019: G20 members have set a goal of reducing additional marine plastic leakage to zero by 2050, according to a declaration released Saturday. The “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision” encourages countries to adopt a “comprehensive life-cycle approach” that addresses oean plastic pollution via “innovative solutions” and improved waste management — “while recognizing the important role of plastics for society.”

Activists criticized the goal’s distant target date and lack of legally-binding steps, as reported by Reuters — as well as its failure to take aim at plastics production.

“The G20’s final declaration shows that it considers the plastic pollution crisis through a narrow, end-of-pipe lens,” Sirine Rached, a global policy advocate at Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, said in a statement. “It only mentions marine impacts as if plastic pollution was not also in our freshwater, in our soils, in our air. It only seeks to improve waste management and reduce discharge of plastic to the oceans, instead of focusing on reducing the absurd amount of plastics in our economies.”

“Such narrow, end-of-pipe measures make no sense when we know that plastic production is set to increase exponentially in coming years,” she added. “Many politicians are trying to surf the wave of public concern around plastic pollution, but we’re seeing very little genuine leadership.”

Japan has lofty goals for the G20 summit, which kicks off today in Osaka — including the establishment of an international framework for addressing marine plastics. The issue was a focal point at a summit meeting in Karuizawa earlier this month, where G20 environment ministers agreed to share and promote best practices for reducing ocean plastic pollution, as reported by DW.

While G20 members are expected to endorse the deal this weekend, environmentalists stress that the framework — which lacks numerical objectives and timelines —  is only the first of many necessary steps toward mitigating marine litter.

“[G]iven the critical situation of ocean pollution with plastics, it is urgently needed to set up legally binding action plans with clear timelines and goals,” Greenpeace Japan’s Hiroaki Odachi told Agence France-Presse.

Japan’s own environmental record has also drawn scrutiny ahead of the summit. For all its recent rhetoric on plastics reduction, Japan (along with the U.S.) refused to sign last year’s G-7 Ocean Plastics Charter, which would have committed it to reusing, recycling or recovering all plastics by 2030. The country is the second largest generator per capita of plastic packaging waste (the U.S. is number one), according to a 2018 UN Environment reportAs reported by The Washington Post, approximately 60,000 tons of the world’s 12.7 million annual tons of marine plastics come from Japan.

“In a country where cleanliness and neat packaging have long been considered good service, almost everything, from single bananas to individual pieces of vegetables, pastries, pens and cosmetics is sold plastic-wrapped,” Alex Barreira and Haruka Nuga noted this week in the Post.

That love affair with plastics, however, might be fizzling. China’s scrap ban has left Japan (which previously exported 1.5 million tons of plastic scrap per year — mostly to China) with rapidly dwindling options.

The Japanese government has announced plans to expand domestic recycling infrastructure. Meanwhile, retailers will be required to charge for single-use plastic bags as early as next April, according to the Guardian — a move deemed inadequate by critics, who cite the existence of various nationwide bans on single-use plastics. Local governments are arguably taking stronger action: the town of Kameoka, for instance, will ban almost 800 retailers from handing out single-use plastic bags starting next year, while the village of Kamikatsu is aiming to become Japan’s first “zero waste” community by 2020.

 

AROUND THE WORLD

Pacific Island nation to implement world’s first disposable diaper ban — The Guardian

Japan may be positioning itself as a global leader in the fight against marine litter, but it’s another island nation that’s taking some of the bold steps toward eradicating plastic waste. Vanuatu, which has one of the world’s strictest single-use plastics bans, has announced a new ban on disposable diapers — believed to be the first of its kind.

The country was deemed a “champion” nation at a London meeting last week for its efforts in combating the climate and ocean pollution crises — but the reception back home hasn’t been quite as glowing. The proposed diaper ban has sparked outrage from various groups, who argue that the measure would set women — the country’s primary caregivers — back by decades.

But Vanuatu, which is waging an existential war against the ravages of climate change and rising sea levels, may have no choice, says the government.

“Vanuatu is safeguarding its future,” said Mike Masauvakalo of the ministry of foreign affairs. “Eventually, plastics find their way into the water and the food chain and at the end of the day, the people of Vanuatu end up consuming [them].”

“It is a long road ahead,” he added. “But knowing my country, we will work it out. Vanuatu is very vocal about the climate emergency. It is visible, we are living it.”

 

UK waste giant convicted of exporting “anything and everything” to China — Environment Agency Press Release

Biffa Waste Services, it appears, has been up to some rotten misdeeds. The UK waste management company was found guilty this week of violating overseas exports laws — specifically, for shipping seven 25-metric ton containers of household trash to China.

Exporting unsorted household waste from the UK to China — in this case, everything from used diapers to unused condoms to a 12-inch record by ’90s darlings Deee-Lite — has been illegal since 2006. Biffa, however, managed to circumvent that particular roadblock by slapping a “waste paper” label on its May and June 2015 shipments.

According to enforcement manager Sarah Mills, Biffa’s exports “contained a totally unacceptable level of contamination with other waste.”

“The waste contained offensive material likely to have been discarded by the receiving country, at great risk and cost to the environment and people,” she said in a statement.

Sentencing has been deferred until Sept. 27. The court was told that Biffa and the Environment Agency had agreed to a criminal penalty of £9,912 — approximately $12,560.

 

Article originally posted in WasteDive.

Stop Being the Dump Site: Environmental Activists Remind Jokowi

Stop Being the Dump Site: Environmental Activists Remind Jokowi

Jakarta, June 25th, 2019 – In 2015, scientists reported Indonesia as second highest contributors of global plastic polluter into the ocean. Considering China’s strict policy and other ASEAN country’s strong position in global plastic waste trade crisis, environmental activists are warning Presiden Joko Widodo on Indonesia’s absence for response and not to let Indonesia replace China’s rank as the first ocean plastic polluters at the end of the year.

World Bank Report reveals marine debris in Indonesia’s waterways consists of 21% of disposable diaper, 16% of single-use plastic, 5% of sachet, 4% of glass and metal, 1% of plastic bottles, 9% of other plastic and 44% of organic waste. Report of the brand audit conducted by Greenpeace Indonesia in mid-September 2018 in three locations in Indonesia, found the packaging of products from Santos, P & G and Wings as the most from beach cleaning activities in Tangerang; Danone, Dettol, Unilever in Bali; and Indofood, Unilever, and Wings products in Yogyakarta.

During the period of 1988-2016, China absorbed around 45.1% of the world’s plastic waste. But since March 2018, the Chinese Government has implemented a strict policy on plastic waste import known as the “National Sword” Policy. Hence, this policy makes global waste trade, especially plastic waste, shocked.

Even though ASEAN countries are known as recyclers of plastic waste (approximately 3% of scrap global plastics waste) and exported 5% of plastic waste to global markets, the load-cycle of recycling and waste management become a burden for these countries because of strict import regulations by China.

“There are two kinds of plastic waste and shredded produced by paper mills that we found in Gresik; the first is plastic mixed with paper that cannot be recycled, used for tofu production fuels or other fuels. The second type is plastic waste with various forms, in the form of bottles, sachets, food packaging, body care products, and household products,” said Prigi Arisandi, Executive Director of Ecoton. “The companies we monitor are almost all abusing import permits and polluting the environment by moving problems to ordinary people,” Prigi added.

Several ASEAN countries have responded to the changes in global plastic waste trade with restrictions on imports. In July 2018, the Malaysian government revoked import licenses of 114 companies and has targeted import bans in 2021. Thailand also targets import bans due to a drastic increase in imports of their plastic waste from the United States by 2000% (91,500 tons) in 2018. Vietnam is no longer issued new licenses for the import of waste, shredded, and / or plastic scrap, paper and metal.

“In principle, import of waste are prohibited in the Law. However, there are complex definitions in assessing whether a commodity is waste or not; and if it is a waste, then excluded from the import ban or not. This is what happened like in Gresik,” said Margaretha Quina, Head of the Pollution Control Division of ICEL. “The complexity of this definition must be addressed, because the consequences are different: illegal or legal, obedient or disobedient.” For the findings by Ecoton in Gresik, according to Quina, can be categorized as administration disobedience to crime case. “As weak as it is, it can be subject to the obligation of re-importation if contaminated with hazardous waste, and the import approval can be revoked if the issuance is based on incorrect data submission. As hard as it is, importers are convicted of the offense of entering waste into Indonesia Waste Law, against the law can be fulfilled because of the fact that goods imported are in the form of waste, contrary to their permission.”

Indonesia imported about 124,000 tons of plastic waste (recognized as plastic scrap) in 2013. This number has more than doubled, around 283,000 tons, in 2018. This transaction volume is the highest point of Indonesian imports over the past 10 years based on BPS data and UN Comtrade.

BPS data shows an increase in imports of 141% but the export rate decreased by 48% (around 98,500 tons). This figure indicates that there are around 184,700 tons of plastic waste still in Indonesia, whose fate is unknown – whether all recycled into pellets or become new products – beyond the burden of the generation of domestic plastic waste around 9 million tons.

“Next year China extends its list of post-consumer products, Thailand also targets to close the doors to import plastic and electronic waste. Meanwhile, Malaysia tightened import controls and the Philippine President politically loudly declared war on imported waste. The sad thing is that Indonesia has no firm attitude and seems to defend the industry without regulation and clear law enforcement, “said Yuyun Ismawati, Senior Advisor of Bali Focus / Nexus3. “Some additives used in all types of plastic are recognized as chemicals that are carcinogenic and are prohibited in developed countries. Recycling plastic containing Hazardous and toxic materials into other products means poisoning circular economy.”

“Importing companies must be responsible for dealing with the inherited pollution from these waste collection, transfer and donation activities. The disadvantage of the uncontrolled import of waste that is more profitable for the corporation is the pollution of the environment and the quality of public health,” said Nur Hidayati from WALHI. “Many national and regional programs related to plastic and ocean waste have been or are being made, coordinated and followed by Indonesia, but their implementation is not clear in the national development program. The President must make sure all his staff are working earnestly.”

In some areas, Chinese entrepreneurs have become investors or partnered with local people to set up household scale plastic recycling businesses whose permits are questionable.

In various places in Jabodetabek and East Java, AZWI activists also found lands contaminated with various sized remnants of plastic either burned or not, polluting land, agricultural land, and water bodies. Cleaning toxins from plastic pollution is not easy, not cheap and requires serious government intentions.

Micro plastic and plastic fibers are also found in fish in Indonesia, in bottled water and in salt. The state’s obligation is to guarantee the right of citizens to live in a safe and healthy environment.

 

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