Hello! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your organisation?
My name is Davit Sidamonidze, and since 2011 I have represented the Greens Movement of Georgia/Friends of the Earth-Georgia, based in Georgia (Caucasus - not the United States). The Greens Movement of Georgia is an organisation aiming to protect the environment, human and ethno-cultural surroundings according to the principles of sustainable development; to end the technocratic and utilitarian treatment attitude towards nature; to establish ecologically safe technologies; to build solidarity and peace between people, and in particular to build an ecologically and socially sustainable society.
We are a non-profit organisation that deals with a broad range of environmental issues and we implement our mission through campaigns and practical activities, public information and involvement, policy making and lobbying. Established in 1989, the Greens Movement of Georgia is one of the largest and oldest environmental organisations in Georgia with 41 local groups throughout the country and more than 1200 members!
Why are you working on the topic of plastic pollution?
Plastic pollution is really problematic in Georgia, it is a serious challenge. With the absence of effective local legislation, the state has only managed to pass regulations that affect cellophane. Despite numerous initiatives, Georgia still doesn't have infrastructure for separate waste collection. Unfortunately, an extended producers responsibility scheme (EPR) on packaging materials (of which 80% is plastic) has not yet been introduced, so companies do not have to take responsibility for the costs of managing the waste associated with their products or packaging. Because of this, there is plenty of reason to be motivated to fight for better legislation on plastics in Georgia!
Tell us about your ongoing campaigns and what you focus on in your work.
Since 2010, we have carried out several campaigns, such as "Let's clean up Georgia"; "Keep Georgia Tidy"; "Blue Stream"; and "Clean Region". And we have learnt so much through our membership with Break Free From Plastic.
You were part of the delegation at COP27 in Egypt. What were your impressions?
Despite the fact that almost everything in the venue was wrapped or contained in plastic and many big plastic polluters were financing the event such as Coca-Cola, COP27 did end with a significant breakthrough for developing nations. A special Loss and Damage fund in which countries responsible for high carbon emissions compensate countries suffering from climate impacts was established. This was a milestone which we greatly celebrated! Yet it should not detract from the many other climate issues that further entrench losses and damages in developing nations.
The fact that the outcome only talks about the ‘phasedown of unabated coal power’ is a disaster for Africa and for the climate. For a possibility of a just and rapid energy transition, oil and gas must also be phased out, swiftly and fairly. This small word, ‘unabated’, creates a huge loophole, opening the door to new fossil-based hydrogen and carbon capture and storage projects, which will allow emissions to continue to rise. We wish to see more actions and, at the very least, discussions about plastic during future COPs.
The negotiations for a binding Global Plastics Treaty are kicking off. How have you been involved so far? Why should the BFFP/its members put a particular focus on it?
Though we were not yet fully involved in the preparation of the first Global Plastics Treaty negotiations, with support from BFFP members, European Investigation Agency, we did succeed in pushing our government to take an active role in the process. Break Free From Plastic has paid particular attention to it because the nature of the treaty provides a unique opportunity to push for ambitious measures that actually prevent further plastic pollution. And it is with the action of civil society such as Break Free From Plastic, that puts pressure on governments to ensure we can't achieve ambitious goals.
What is the most outlandish statement, argument or activity you have seen or heard of in connection to plastic that you think everybody should know about?
There is a strange saying that has been established in Georgia for years: "you have to put garbage in the river and the water will take it away". This coupled with a strange Georgian tradition established during the Soviet era where all landfills were placed on the banks of the river, has created and still creates a serious problem. We have been fighting these norms very effectively in recent years with our campaigns and will continue to do so!