Motivated by the European Single Use Plastic Directive, a group of local activists from the island of Zlarin in Croatia had an idea of Zlarin becoming an island free from single-use plastic. They won a contest for the most innovative solutions that will help prevent further plastic pollution entering the Adriatic Sea. Then, a few months later, the vision started becoming a reality when all shops, restaurants, NGOs and local authorities signed the declaration to replace disposable plastic with more environmentally friendly solutions to contribute to stopping plastic pollution.
The Zero Waste Croatia Network that collects and supports best practices in Croatia congratulates the island of Zlarin and all those engaged in this significant success.
“As a member of international Break Free From Plastic movement we congratulate the island of Zlarin! We have worked to get strong and motivating EU legislation to stop plastic pollution, and soon after that we already have concrete results here in Croatia. Zlarin is the first, and hopefully many other islands and municipalities will follow!”, says Marko Košak, coordinator of the Zero Waste Croatia Network, member of global Break Free From Plastic movement.
“Our goal isn’t to simply replace all single use plastic items with another single use items made of more environmental friendly materials. Our goal is to once again start using reusable items – going shopping with canvas bags, using glass instead of plastic bottles, using tap water instead of bottled water at events etc. Plastic cups and cutlery will be replaced by more sustainable solutions and straws will be completely phased out”, says Ana Elizabeta Robb from Zlarin, one of the initiators of this successful project.
After this crucial step, Zlarin won’t stop.
“We already had meeting with local activists and have planned the next actions to improve quality of life on the island. The Croatian Ministry of Environment doesn’t do much to stop plastic pollution, so we are applying pressure from bottom up. With our zero waste municipalities and plastic-free islands like Zlarin we are on the right track to transform our society and environment to be a better place for living“, concludes Marko Košak.
On Thursday 20th of February two ‘Plastic Pacts’ were released in France and the Netherlands. These ‘pacts’ are voluntary agreements led primarily by industry groups committing to increased recyclability of packaging materials. Two organisations from the #breakfreefromplastic movement have issued responses to the launch of these pacts. In France, Zero Waste France & Surfrider Europe issued their response calling for binding political measures. Whilst in the Netherlands, the Recycling Netwerk published their response, again demanding firm legislation to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. You can find both of these statements below as well as on the respective websites.
Recycling Netwerk’s response to the Dutch pact:
Dutch “Plastic Pact” may increase recycling, but it won’t solve the plastic pollution
The Plastic Pact of the Dutch government and 80 plastic producing companies will lead to more efficient recycling, but it won’t solve the plastic waste problem, the Belgian-Dutch environmental ngo Recycling Netwerk Benelux says today.
The Dutch secretary of state responsible for environment, Stientje van Veldhoven (D66, social liberals) presents a Plastic pact concluded with 80 companies on Thursday.
“Every initiative to tackle the plastic problem is welcome. But the voluntary recycling agreements in the pact will only slightly reduce the pollution caused by a plastic production that spiralled out of control”, director Rob Buurman of the Dutch-Belgian ngo says. “The Plastic Pact does not bring the much needed system change to deal with plastics in a different way”.
The target of qualitative recycling of 70% in the pact is ambitious and good. But it should be written in a law, not in a voluntary agreement that cannot be controlled by the government, Buurman says.
All targets of the Plastic Pact aim for 2025. “The Dutch government should make agreements that they can verify in the actual governing period until 2021”, Rob Buurman insists.
The Pact will not lead to less plastic litter or less plastic soup. It encourages so-called bio-based plastics, but these pollute as much as any other plastics.
“These kind of voluntary agreements are too little and too late. We’re in 2019. The Dutch government should urgently make firm legislation to make the plastic producers responsible for all clean-up costs, enlarge the deposit-return system to small plastic bottles, and introduce legally binding reduction targets for plastics, Recycling Netwerk concludes.
National Pact on plastic packaging : NGOs point the urgent need for binding political measures
The French Ministry for the Environment and several voluntary companies are signing a National Pact on Plastic Packaging.
Zero Waste France and Surfrider Foundation Europe, members of the Break Free From Plastic movement, which brings together 1700 civil society organisations at international level, are alerting policy-makers: it is no longer time for voluntary commitments but for national regulatory measures to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.
A voluntary pact insufficient to deal with the extent of plastic pollution
Every year, the production and consumption of plastic materials in the world is higher than the previous year. The disposable packaging sector is one of the main drivers of this growth. In France, it absorbs 45% of all plastic consumed nationally and represents 60% of the plastic waste produced. The sector’s forecasts do not show any signs of a downturn: global plastic production is expected to increase by 40% in the next 10 years and disposable packaging accounts for a third of this increase.
In this context, the Voluntary Pact on Plastic Packaging signed today at the Ministry seems not to be sufficient to reverse this trend of exponential growth. While it includes some commitments regarding the progress of plastic recycling, it does not contain any quantified target for a net reduction in the quantities of disposable plastic packaging placed in the market.
Above all, it is a “voluntary” Pact, which will therefore not apply to all economic actors but only to those stakeholders who consider themselves bound. It cannot therefore be a substitute to proper public policy that results from democratic debate and applies to all.
The need for political action on the plastics frontline
Antidia Citores, spokesperson for Surfrider Foundation Europe: “At a time when nearly 25,000 citizens are taking up the challenges of the Ocean zero application to reduce their daily plastic impact and prevent marine pollution, it is more than time for public authorities to take real binding legislative measures to reduce plastic pollution at source in compliance with EU obligations and environmental emergency”.
“While the beginning of the year has been marked by worrying political setbacks in the fight against plastic pollution, we expect from the government binding measures to reduce single-use plastic, which can lead the way and set the ambition for all the stakeholders,” adds Laura Châtel, advocacy officer at Zero Waste France. “The plastic reduction target cannot be flexible and voluntary”.
At the end of January, the Senate reviewed, within the framework of the PACTE law, the plastic product bans planned for 2020, even though they were formally adopted this very same year. At the same time, the first version of the government’s draft « Circular Economy » law, which was circulated in the press, contained no measures relating to plastics. France has positioned itself as a leader in the fight against plastic pollution at European level during the negotiations on the Plastic Directive, a leadership that should be reflected in its domestic policy.
To reverse the trend and address the problem of plastic pollution at its roots, the NGOs are calling for:
A national target for the reduction of disposable plastic packaging ;
economic and regulatory support measures to encourage bulk sales and reuse systems for packaging ;
Single-use plastic products bans (cups, straws, crockery, etc.) already voted by the National Assembly to be maintained, strengthened (extension of the ban on cups and food containers in collective catering) and effectively implemented;
This press release was originally issued by the Rethink Plastic alliance. The European policy alliance of the #breakfreefromplastic movement.
Brussels, 30 January 2019 – The EU will use its powerful chemical laws to stop most microplastics and microbeads being added to cosmetics, paints, detergents, some farm, medical and other products, according to a draft law due to be tabled today.
The European Chemicals Agency says that 10,000 to 60,000 tonnes of microplastics intentionally added to products leak into the environment yearly, are impossible to remove and last for thousands of years. The scale of the problem is dramatic: six times the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the plastic pollution generated by 10 billion plastic bottles, the agency says. Microplastics accumulate and persist in the environment, one of the main reasons why the agency concluded it is necessary to restrict microplastic ingredients under REACH, the strictest set of chemical laws in the world.
The restriction is expected to become law across Europe by 2020. It will prevent an estimated 400,000 tonnes of plastic pollution, the agency says. NGOs welcomed the move as a significant step forward, but strongly warn that it grants unnecessary delays for most industrial sectors and excludes some biodegradable polymers. As it stands, the draft law will only restrict one sector when it comes into force, namely cleansing products made by firms that have already pledged to stop using microplastic. Other sectors will be granted 2-6 years before the law takes effect. The proposal will go to public consultation this summer followed by economic, social and risk assessments, then a vote by government experts in the secretive REACH committee not before early 2020.
Elise Vitali, chemicals policy officer for the European Environmental Bureau, said on behalf of Rethink Plastic:“The European Union is rapidly becoming a leader in the global culture shift away from wasteful plastic. Microplastic is one of those vast but largely invisible problems; a menace all around and in us. It was fed by irresponsible firms, such as those making personal care products that decided to swap out natural ingredients like ground almond, coconut shell and olive seed for plastic microbeads. We’ll be pushing hard to tighten this proposal to ensure real impact. Tackling the plastics inside products is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to solving the microplastic blight, but is a necessary step.”
The ban is part of the EU plastics strategy that saw Europe become the first continent to start banning many types of single use plastic by 2021.
However, reduction targets missing and collection targets delayed, campaigners warn
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brussels, 19/12/2018
After months of intense negotiations, the EU has agreed much-anticipated laws to slash single-use plastics in the EU. The agreed text is a significant step forward in tackling plastic pollution, but does not fully address the urgency of the plastics crisis, according to Rethink Plastic and Break Free From Plastic.
“The EU deserves praise for being the first region to introduce new laws to reduce single-use plastics and slash plastic pollution in our fields, rivers and oceans. What’s less laudable is that the plastics lobby – backed up by some governments – was able to delay and weaken the ambition,” said Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe on behalf of Rethink Plastic. “Citizens across Europe want to see an end to our throwaway culture and politicians have taken the first step. The time is ripe for Europe to transition away from single-use plastics to reusables.”
The final measures adopted  include:
Bans on several single-use plastic items including plates, cutlery and expanded polystyrene food containers and beverage cups
Ensuring manufacturers pay for waste management and clean-up of several single-use plastic items, including cigarette butts and fishing gear
However, the agreement falls short of what is needed to fully tackle the plastics crisis in key areas including:
No binding EU-wide target to reduce the consumption of food containers and cups, and no obligation for EU countries to adopt targets
A delay of four years on ensuring 90% of plastic bottles are collected separately – from 2025 to 2029
“The new laws are a significant first blow to the plastic pollution monster” said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European Coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement. “However, their impact depends on the implementation by our national governments who must immediately adopt ambitious targets to cut single-use plastics, and ensure producers pay for their pollution. The public call to stop plastic pollution is loud and strong, it is unacceptable to ignore it.”
Tomorrow, December 20, national Environment Ministers are expected to sign off on the agreed Directive. Member States will have two years to transpose it into national laws, which should come into force at the beginning of 2021 at the latest.
A EU-wide ban of single-use plastic cotton buds, straws, plates, cutlery, beverage stirrers, balloon sticks, oxo-degradable plastics, and expanded polystyrene food containers and beverage cups
Extended Producer Responsibility schemes meaning manufacturers (including big tobacco companies and top polluters from the packaging industry like Coca Cola, Pepsico and Nestle) pay for the costs of waste management, clean up and awareness-raising measures for certain single-use plastics including plastic cigarette filters – the most littered item in Europe (by January 2023 for most items)
A possibility for EU countries to adopt market restrictions for food containers and cups for beverages
An obligation for EU countries to reduce post-consumption waste from tobacco product filters containing plastic
For fishing gear, an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme and a requirement for Member States to monitor collection rates and set national collection targets
Ensure all beverage bottles are produced from 30% recycled content by 2030
Labelling on the presence of plastics in a product and resulting environmental impacts of littering, and on the appropriate waste disposal options for that product
What’s not so good:
No binding EU-wide target to reduce the consumption of food containers and cups, and no obligation for EU countries to adopt targets either; instead, countries must “significantly reduce” their consumption, leaving it vague and open
A delay of 4 years in achieving the 90% collection target of beverage containers, from 2025 to 2029, with an intermediary target of 77% by 2025
Allowing for EU countries to choose to achieve consumption reduction and certain EPR measures through voluntary agreements between industry and authorities
A 3 year delay to make sure plastic drinks containers have their caps/lids attached to the containers – from 2021 to 2024
These measures apply to all single-use plastics listed in the Directive’s Annexes including bio-based and biodegradable plastics.
SumOfUs, Global2000 and #aufstehn demand EU plastics directive not be weakened at the last moment
Vienna, 5 Dezember 2018 – Today, Global consumer group SumOfUs, environmental organisation Global 2000 and the activist group #aufstehn delivered a petition with nearly 70,000 signatures to Elisabeth Köstinger, President of the EU Council, asking her to ensure that the EU Plastics Directive is passed in order to reduce single-use plastics and makes corporations pay for the plastic waste they are responsible for.
The EU Plastics Directive aims at drastically reducing pollution from single-use plastics in the oceans and the environment. Important details of the directive are still discussed, namely reduction goals and quotas, as well as how businesses will be held accountable and have to pay for the plastic waste they produce.
“We need to make sure that this ambitious plastics directive is not weakened at the last moment because of corporate lobbying,” saidEoin Dubsky, Campaign Manager for SumOfUs.
“We are urging Secretary Köstinger to follow through on fighting plastic waste and use the next two years,” added Lisa Kernegger of Global 2000. “In order to make sure that happens, we need to make sure that the EU has a strong plastics directive without weak compromises for wealthy corporations. Any implementation of this directive can only be as good as the policies within it . This is true for Austria, and of course for the rest of Europe.”.
“We’ve fought hard for a strict plastics directive over for the last several few months. Köstinger is the Austrian environmental secretary, and now it’s her chance to make sure this law won’t be watered down”, said Johanna Morandell of #aufstehn.