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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

“Getting Climate Finance Right” in the Waste Sector

At a historic juncture for climate finance, Friends of the Earth US and the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) have co-edited a report showing that it is possible to get climate finance right.

In the report, which includes work from many global, regional and local organisations including the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), zero waste solutions are advocated as solid examples of successful climate programs, which should be the focus of further funding. This includes both the Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH) cooperative from Pune who provide door-to-door waste collection for more than 400,000 households and the Zero Waste Program at Bir Hospital in Nepal, which has reduced dioxin emissions from medical waste incineration by over 90%.

Waste-pickers from SWaCH and the KKPKP in Pune
Waste-pickers from SWaCH and the KKPKP in Pune

Combining the stories of dozens of local and regional groups, this study demonstrates the importance of learning from successful examples of climate finance in looking ahead into the future. With the creation of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was created to help transform developing country economies by supporting high quality investments in clean energy and climate resilience, it is essential that future projects are able to learn from a critical assessment of previous climate finance projects.

This report comes as the GCF accredited 13 new organisations to administer and distribute funds. Controversially this list included the Deutsch Bank who are the worlds 10th largest backer of coal, having invested €15bn in the industry since 2005, according to the BankTrack network. This decision sparked outrage from over 20 of the worlds leading climate organisations including GAIA, Friends of the Earth US, Action Aid International, and many others. In the statement the groups said they were “tremendously discouraged and disappointed” adding that the fund was at “real risk of losing credibility”.

Previously concerns have been raised around the lack of criteria for the GCF investments. Earlier this year, civil society organisations demanded the GCF approve an exclusion list to ensure that none of this climate investments will end up financing dirty energy sources. In this regard, GAIA and Zero Waste Europe have been actively campaigning against the financing of incinerators by the GCF, Mariel Vilella, Associate Director of Zero Waste Europe said “Given the urgency of the climate crisis, the shrinking pool of public money, the health risks of incineration, and the availability of sound alternatives, waste-to-energy would be a bad investment for the Green Climate Fund”.

The new study consists of 22 examples of successful climate related projects, programs and policies, across three continents; Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The examples were identified by organisations from the Global South and North and follow a comprehensive list of overarching characteristics: all of them are deeply rooted in the local communities, are inclusive and encourage the participation of affected communities; recognize and respect people’s rights, with special attention on gender and relationships/partnerships building; and most importantly, all of them are fully grant-funded, which allowed for flexibility, experimentation and innovation. (See the full list)

One of the case studies featured in report, under the category of ‘mitigation’ is that of the Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH) cooperative. Based in Pune, India the cooperative is ‘an autonomous social enterprise that provides front-end waste management services’, over 80% of SWaCH members are women from marginalised castes, and as a result of the cooperative worker-members can earn up to three times their previous daily income.

Bir Hospital
Bir Hospital in Nepal have undertaken an effective ‘Zero Waste Program’

It is further estimated that the SWaCH program saves the city an estimated $2.8 million per year in waste collection and disposal costs, and is responsible for preventing 640,000 tons of greenhouse gasses annually. The story and success of the SWaCH workers has been well documented, and more details can be found in the GAIA report on Successes and Lessons from Around the World

The case of the Zero Waste Program at Bir Hospital in Nepal, with no external funding the hospital managed to successfully reduce dioxin emissions associated with medical waste incineration by 90%, whilst increasing the percentage of the total waste stream which is recycled to over 50% , a move which is responsible for supporting hundreds of recycling jobs.

Such incredible achievements were possible through sustained efforts and initiatives from vermicomposting to the redesign of thermometers and other medical technology to use non-mercury alternatives, with the support of the Health Care Foundation and international allies such as Health Care Without Harm. This project carried out with zero budget, demonstrates the huge potential for a GCF funded program which would have the capacity to improve waste management across hundreds of hospitals in the region.

The success of the waste workers of Pune, and Nepal, on comparatively tiny budgets make it clear that the GCF should be doing more to expand and develop such programs and that truly effective climate finance projects include a wide range of factors, which are deeply rooted in affected communities. Only with these lessons of past successes can we hope to make progress towards a strong and effective climate finance model which is equitable for everyone involved.


The White House Admits Biomass Burning Not “Carbon Neutral”

 

In an important move, the White House released a Statement of Policy on the 23rd June, taking a strong stance against and vetoing the reclassification of all biomass power production as inherently “carbon-neutral”, a move which would have increased the attractiveness of biomass incineration across the US and the globe.

The White House took a strong position on the topic saying:

The Administration objects to the bill’s representation of forest biomass as categorically “carbon-neutral.” This language conflicts with existing EPA policies on biogenic CO2 and interferes with the position of States that do not apply the same policies to forest biomass as other renewable fuels like solar or wind. This language stands in contradiction to a wide-ranging consensus on policies and best available science from EPA’s own independent Science Advisory Board, numerous technical studies, many States, and various other stakeholders.”

Wood Yard at Schiller Station
Biomass Plant fuel pile: Photo by PSNH

There is strong evidence to counter the claims that biomass is carbon-neutral. It is widely accepted by scientists that logging for bioenergy creates a ‘carbon debt’. A report by Biofuelwatch presents evidence showing that electricity generated from wood biomass can result in ‘higher carbon emissions than an equivalent amount of electricity from coal’, and contributes to deforestation of ancient forests. When it is essential that we immediately reduce our green house gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, this ‘carbon debt’ is too high a price to pay.

“Biomass proponents argue that the CO2 is reabsorbed as the harvested forest regrows, but aside from being highly uncertain, the regrowth process takes many decades — during which time the additional CO2 emissions causes additional warming,” said Jonathan Lewis in an analysis published by The Energy Collective, which applauded the White House decision.

The White House’s recent statement and veto should serve as an important reminder of the dangers of categorising biomass energies as carbon-neutral and renewable without consideration for the immediate emissions.

Meantime, in the EU…

The EU legislation considers biomass energy production as carbon neutral, and Member States see biomass as an important tool to help them achieve their renewable energy targets under the Renewable Energy Directive. This flawed assumption is exacerbated by the fact that the EU does not have mandatory criteria ensuring sustainability in the use of biomass for energy production. Moreover, local campaigners often report the use of Refuse-Derived-Fuel or municipal solid waste as fuel, just included in the mix, as in the case of the biomass power plant in Greater Manchester that will mix industrial wood residues and municipal solid waste.

An opinion published by the Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency (EEA) on 6th September 2011 stated that there is a “serious accounting error” in the baseline definition in European bioenergy policy. According to the Committee, a major accounting flaw exists in EU legislation whereby counting biomass used for power generation as ‘zero emissions’ is incorrect and will have “immense” negative consequences for the environment.

Recent reports have raised the alarms, showing that the European biomass industry is having a further impact on the US through the increased demand for wood pellets as fuel. Whilst biomass fuel company Enviva claim to predominantly use tree waste in their fuels, evidence from investigations in the US have found that this is not the case, with an attorney from the Southern Environmental Law Center saying “the pellet industry and the [British] utility have been deceptive about the sources of wood they use. Enviva’s website says they’re using only waste wood, but you can follow the trucks to the harvest sites and see what they’re doing”. The Law Centre found that the pellets from Enviva were coming from hardwoods, and therefore falling far short of the British biomass fuel standards.

Indeed, the UK has been leading a particular focus on the development of biomass technologies and plants, with Drax plc. operators of the UK’s largest coal-fired power station, recently becoming the operators of the ‘biggest biomass power station in the world’. By continuing to see biomass energy as a ‘green’ option, the EU and the UK government are allowing for vast emissions to be produced with potentially devastating climate change impacts in the short and medium term. Oliver Munion from Biofuelwatch made it clear that using the “UK government’s own recently published biomass carbon calculator, it can be shown that a significant proportion of wood that Drax burns results in up to 3 times more carbon emissions than equivalent generation from burning coal”.

More profits for the cement industry

rugby cement plant
Cemex-owned cement plant in Rugby, United Kingdom, mixes waste in the mix of fuels

The cement industry has taken full advantage of the supposed carbon neutrality of biomass. Ostensibly to reduce CO2emissions, the cement industry has promoted its use of “alternative fuels” such as biomass and waste which they can claim is a carbon-neutral fuel source. In a response to the EU’s incentivisation of biomass incineration several organisations including the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) stated in a report that “the cement industry is green-washing the main reasons why it is repositioning in the industrial market as waste incineration, which has little to do with environmental issues but rather follows their economic interests. Indeed, waste incineration in cement is an environmentally harmful activity with worse consequences for public health and that does not reduce emissions as it’s claimed.”.

The statement from the White House on the carbon neutrality of biomass burning is a positive step towards the recognition of the full impacts of biomass energy generation. It is also an acknowledgement that the EPA cannot rely on overly simplistic science, to continue the justifying biomass burning as a sustainable source of energy.

For the EU and UK government, and many others around the world, the recognition of biomass burning as not inherently ‘carbon-neutral’ by the US government should be a clear message that the inclusion of biomass as a renewable and ‘carbon-neutral’ energy source is factually incorrect, and leading to a dangerous focus on polluting and environmentally destructive energies.


Slovenian Cement Plant Stops Operations as Environmental Permit Fails Approval

In Trbovlje, Slovenia, the Lafarge-owned cement plant has been ordered to stop operations after it’s been revealed that the plant lacks the necessary environmental permits. Still, the plant has filed a complaint to the Ministry of Environment of Slovenia and it’s expected that it will try to get further permissions, thus the local groups that have been campaigning against the environmental pollution from the plant for years, remain vigilant and under alert.

 

500 pages of legal documents
500 pages of legal documents sent to Eko Krog in October 2013

Eko Krog (Eco Circle) the Slovenian Society for Nature Conservation and Environmental Protection along with local residents, has been fighting the Lafarge plant’s burning of hazardous waste and campaigning on the issue of clean air for over 10 years. Since the beginning of their campaign in 2004, the group have denounced inadequate environmental permits given to the cement plant and have faced complicated legal challenges; on one occasion receiving over 500 pages of legal documents from Lafarge with only 14 days for comment.

 

 

Trbovlje Cement Plant
Lafarge Cement Plant in Trbovlje

 

The Lafarge plant received a permit to burn waste from 2009 to 2011, a period in which the plant burnt all kinds of hazardous and municipal solid waste. Thanks to Eko Krog and their efforts on the legal battle, the Court rejected the permit given to Lafarge and ordered the end of co-incineration of waste in the plant. However, Lafarge did not stop operations at the plant, which has led to Slovenia being subject to EU legal action for its failure to implement a permit system which ‘requires industrial plants to be licensed to verify they meet strict environmental controls’ in line with the IPPC Directive of 2007. In the course of this action, Lafarge has finally resumed operations in this plant, but it’s pursuing new permits.

 

The biggest obstacle to zero waste

Lafarge Waste Incineration Protest
Demonstration against the Lafarge plant in Ljubljana in 2011

In this recently released video, Uroš Marcerl, of Eko Krog, talks about the campaign against the pollution from the incineration of waste in the Lafarge plant. “We’ll never allow this story to repeat itself in the Zasavje region” he says “they’re interested in enormous profits through waste incineration – nothing else”. Erika Oblak from Ekologi Brez Meja (Ecologists Without Borders) says that Lafarge “in the end only care about annual profits”.

Waste incineration in cement kilns has been a growing problem as cement plants have increasingly moved to burning hazardous waste as opposed to producing cement in an effort to grow profits. However, the high level of heavy metals incinerated in the kilns poses a risk to surrounding communities and the environment. Professor emeritus Paul Connett of St. Lawrence University, New York has called waste incineration in cement kilns “the biggest obstacle to zero waste”.

Slovenia is at a tipping point, with more and more municipalities taking up zero waste goals, inspired by Ljubljana being the first EU capital to adopt a zero waste strategy. As municipalities pave the way for a zero waste future and phase out plans to build incinerators, there is a growing threat that the cement industry will increasingly pressure the government to use waste as fuel for their operations, despite obvious impacts on the environment and public health.

Opposition to Lafarge’s waste burning practices is not exclusive to Trbovlje plant in Slovenia. In Montcada i Reixach, Catalonia, the High Court of Justice of Catalonia has rejected the environmental permit given to the Lafarge cement plant to burn waste. The local anti-incineration campaign Montcada Aire Net have been calling for Lafarge to halt their waste burning activities for many years.

Whilst the Trbovlje cement plant continues to operate, so too does Eko Krog continue to oppose incineration in the region, and it is hoped that we will soon see the end of waste incineration in the Zasavje region.

Watch the video for yourself and see what you think:


Time to Redesign Extended Producer Responsibility for a Circular Economy: New study from Zero Waste Europe.

We have now released the full report which is available for download on our website.

Newly released findings of a study commissioned by Zero Waste Europe1 reveal current EPR schemes are lacking in scope and effectiveness.

This study provides clear evidence that Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes in Europe are insufficient. In the Executive Summary, released on Wednesday 15, July, it has been found that despite 70% of municipal solid waste being product waste, only 45% of this product waste is currently covered by an EPR scheme and only 18% of the product waste is collected with existing EPR schemes.

In the full study to be released in October, there will be included a number of detailed and clear recommendations to the European Commission on improving the current EPR mechanisms and implementing truly effective EPR scheme with a broader definition which as the ‘father of extended producer responsibility’ Thomas Lindhqvist stated, would serve as “an environmental protection strategy to reach an environmental objective of a decreased total environmental impact from a product”2.

Summary of total waste, product waste, EPR coverage and EPR separate collection.
Summary of total waste, product waste, EPR coverage and EPR separate collection.

For EPR thinking to fit into the circular economy, the study claims that it is necessary to connect waste managers with producers using economic instruments as well as the introduction of legally binding eco-design requirements that allow for better process and product design.

This study comes at important time for the European Commission who are currently conducting a review of waste policy and legislation. The aim of which is to “help turn Europe into a circular economy, boost recycling, secure access to raw materials and create jobs and economic growth”3. All ambitious targets which will need to incorporate strong EPR protocols to have achieve the desired goals, and move Europe towards a zero waste circular economy.

Joan-Marc Simon, director of Zero Waste Europe said “This study provides new evidence about the potential for improving EPR schemes in Europe and the need to use the upcoming waste package proposal to ensure that producers really take responsibility whilst providing the appropriate incentives to redesign systems and products”. It is clear that whilst EPR schemes across Europe do not manage to reach most producers there is real potential in the current review for their reform, and it is hoped that if the European Commission takes these findings into account. That would be a real step forwards for the circular economy and another step towards a zero waste Europe.

1http://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/downloads/redesigning-producer-responsibility-executive-summary/

2Thomas Lindhqvist, “Mot ett förlängt producentansvar — analys av erfarenheter samt förslag” (“Towards an Extended Producer Responsibility — analysis of experiences and proposals,” in Swedish), 30 April 1992, published by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources ini “Varor som faror — Underlagsrapporter” (“Products as Hazardous — background documents,” in Swedish), Ds 1992:82. The definition was published in English for the first time in: Thomas Lindhqvist, “Extended Producer Responsibility,” in the proceedings of an invitational seminar at Trolleholm Castle, 4-5 May 1992: “Extended Responsibility as a Strategy to Promote Cleaner Products,” edited by Thomas Lindhqvist, Department of Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund, June 1992.

3http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/target_review.htm


Press Release: Study Finds Extended Producer Responsibility Needs Redesign for Circular Economy

Study Finds Extended Producer Responsibility Needs Redesign for Circular Economy

For Immediate Release: 15, July, 2015

Contact: Joan-Marc Simon info@zerowasteeurope.eu, +32 2503-49 11

***

A new study commissioned by Zero Waste Europe[1] finds majority of product waste not covered by current Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes and calls for redesigning it in order to move towards a circular economy.

Key findings from the new study covering 15 European cities have been published today [2], in advance of the publication of the full study in September. The study shows that 70% of municipal solid waste is product waste (waste that is not food or garden waste) and as such could be included under an EPR scheme. However currently only 45% of this product waste (by weight) is covered by the producer responsibility scheme. Furthermore, only 18% of product waste is collected separately through an EPR scheme.

The full study to be released in September will make a series of recommendations to the European Commission. Among these it will call for a broader definition and a more comprehensive approach to EPR which includes the use of economic instruments. The introduction of legally binding eco-design requirements as well as better EPR schemes with full-cost coverage, individualisation, targets for separate collection and the expansion of the current EPR scope to include more products.

Zero Waste Europe encourages the European Commission to take these findings into account in the up-coming proposal on the waste package[3] which will be presented before the end of the year.

Joan-Marc Simon, director of ZWE said This study provides new evidence about the potential for improving EPR schemes in Europe and the need to use the upcoming waste package proposal to ensure that producers really take responsibility whilst providing the appropriate incentives to redesign systems and products”

Contact: Joan-Marc Simon, info@zerowasteeurope.eu, +32 2503-49 11

ENDS

***

NOTES:

1. Zero Waste Europe – Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system. www.zerowasteeurope.eu

2. Download Executive Summary

3. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/target_review.htm

IMAGES:

Figure 1: summary of total waste, product waste, EPR coverage and EPR separate collection.

Figure_4_EPR

The European Parliament shows the way to circular economy

The Commission has homework for the summer: if it wants to save time and efforts for the co-legislative process, it should take note of Sirpa Pietikäinen’s report and include its proposals in the future text.

On July 9 the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg approved the own initiative report “Resource efficiency: moving towards a circular economy”, giving a strong signal to the Commission and to the Council as to what kind of Circular Economy Package citizens’ representatives expect. Although this report is non-binding, it has a strong political message: the European Parliament remembers Commissioner Timmermans’ promise of proposing an ambitious and holistic circular economy package and urges the Commission to act consequently.

Although the report has been watered down -by an amendment from the European People’s Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists- which turns the proposal of a binding 30% resource efficiency target into a voluntary one, it still keeps some of its key aspects, such as the need of measuring footprint indicators for land, materials, water and carbon.

The European Parliament also calls for zero waste, proposing binding targets on waste prevention by 2025, a 70% recycling target of Municipal Waste by 2030 and an 80% recycling target of packaging by 2030. Other of the targets proposed are a 50% marine litter reduction target of 50% by 2025 compared to 2014 levels and a foodwaste reduction target of 30% by 2025.

Especial attention deserves the fact that the Pietikäinen report urges to strictly limit incineration to non-recyclable and non-biodegradable waste by 2020. Besides, the Parliament stresses that there are loopholes in the Renewable Energies Directive that are being used to subsidize waste incineration, urging to phase out subsidies to incineration.

Zero Waste Europe welcomes the approval of this report and calls on the European Commission to take note of these proposals to include them in the circular economy package that is being drafted. The European Commission should enjoy the political momentum and commitment around circular economy to drive ambitious policies.


Plastic Bag Free Day 2015 Global Round-up

Plastic has permeated every corner of our oceans and rivers, leaving virtually no inch of ocean plastic free.1 But all around the world, communities and cities are showing that another way is possible. From Manila to Montenegro, people are saying no to plastic pollution and calling for a world without plastic bags.

Environmental Groups dramatise the effects of single-use plastic bags in Manilla, Philippines.
Environmental groups dramatize the environmental impacts of single-use disposal bags during the celebration of the 2015 International Plastic Bag-free Day in Manila. The groups encouraged the public to choose reusable bags to prevent plastic pollution.

On Friday the 3rd of July groups and organisations from across the world took action for the 6th International Plastic Bag Free Day. The day saw creative events across five continents, in a unified call for reusable, responsible alternatives.

  • Montenegro saw a ‘plastic bag monster’ roaming the streets of Podgorica, the capital city, as Zero Waste Montenegro raised awareness of the environmental impact of single-use plastic bags and informed people of the alternative zero waste solutions. Hungarian campaigners from Humusz held a flashmob and trolley race to from a central square to a nearby market, highlighting the alternative solutions to plastic bags, such as shopping trolleys. In Sofia, Bulgaria, there was a ‘plastic bag free party and fotomarathon’ with theatre, music and drinks. A German group held a film showing of ‘Trashed’ in Konstanz. And in Slovenia a trade in scheme was held, where people could swap 10 disposable plastic bags for a re-usable cotton bag. In addition to having fun and raising awareness, groups in Europe had concrete policy goals. In Europe, groups including; Zero Waste Europe, Fundació Prevenció de Residus, Friends of the Earth Europe, Surfrider Foundation Europe, and the European Environmental Bureau renewed their call for for EU Member States to put into effect the new EU directive to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags, and make this policy a reality.

    Bulgaria Plastic Bag Free Party
    Bulgaria Plastic Bag Free Party
  • In Manilla, Philippines, a forum was held by a number of organisations exposing the truth behind many types of ‘degradable’ plastic bags and their impacts on the environment. Sonia Mendoza, President of the EcoWaste Coalition of the Philippines, said “Degradable plastic bags will not help solve our environmental problems concerning waste and pollution, as their use will merely instil and promote further the throwaway attitude and culture that have so permeated modern society,” and called for a ban on plastic bags in the Philippines.
  • Members of the Korea Zero Waste Movement Network worked to raise awareness in front of the Seoul Jongno Tower Saengtegye, encouraging South Koreans to stop using single-use plastic bags, and instead use reusable shopping baskets. And in Hong-Kong and Taiwan groups encouraged people to “Say no to plastic bags!” and reduce their use of disposable bags.
Zero waste campaigners in South Korea raise awareness about disposable plastics.
Zero waste campaigners in South Korea raise awareness about disposable plastics.
  • In Botswana, Somarelang Tikologo (Environment Watch Botswana), called upon the Botswanan government to enforce their levy on plastic bags, which officially came into force in 2006 and use the proceeds to fund environmental activities in Botswana, saying “We also call on the government to use the levy as it was intended to create a cleaner Botswana,”.
  • The Kicking the Bags Out campaign in Zambia lobbied for a plastic bag ban or fee across Zambia as part of a community solution to the issue of clogged drainage systems from plastic bag waste and donated reusable bags to legislators and ministers.
  • In Canada volunteers on Vancouver Island offered reusable bags by donation and held a voluntary plastic bag ban, where shoppers were encouraged not to use single-use plastic bags as part of their daily shop.
  • In Argentina a comedy event was held where monologues highlighted the ‘pointlessness’ of plastic bags.
A 'plastic bag monster' roams the streets of Montenegro's capital.
A ‘plastic bag monster’ roams the streets of Montenegro’s capital.

More and more people on every continent are choosing to take their reusable bags to the shops, and ditching disposable plastics. But we don’t have time to wait for everyone in the world to follow this trend. The disastrous effects that single-use plastic bags are having on our environments, means that we need bold policies to tackle the issue of destructive disposable plastics and begin to move towards a world where single-use plastics are completely eliminated.

Many of the events and actions which took place are available to view on world map at http://www.plasticbagfreeday.org/ where you can read stories, view actions and add any of your own actions which may be missing.

1 Doyle, Christopher, “No part of the ocean untouched by plastic rubbish.” ABC Environment, 11 December 2014.


Press Release: International Bag Free Day – New EU Directive paves the way for a Europe without plastic bags

INTERNATIONAL BAG FREE DAY: New EU Directive paves the way for a Europe without plastic bags

For more information: www.plasticbagfreeday.org

***

Brussels, July 3, 2015 – On International Plastic Bag Free Day, a coalition of environmental and waste prevention organisations [1] urge EU Member States to take measures on environmentally damaging single-use plastic bags in accordance with new EU Directive requirements.

Every year, the average EU citizen uses an estimated 500 plastic bags [2], 92.5% of which are single-use. Around 90 billion single-use plastic bags were used in the EU in 2010 [3]. Plastic bags make up around 40% of all the marine litter across UK waters and the North Sea [4], and a 2009 study showed that in the Bay of Biscay over 90% of waste items found on the seabed were plastic [5]. These petroleum based products contain toxic additives such as endocrine disruptors and carcinogens, which can migrate into marine environments and enter the food chain via marine fauna.

European citizens think it is time to take action. A 2014 survey carried out by the European Commission, found that 92 % of respondents agree that measures should be taken to reduce the use of single-use plastic items, such as shopping bags [6].

There has been recent progress by EU institutions on tackling this issue. In May, a new European Directive, 2015/720/UE,to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags entered in to force. The Directive requires Member States to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags with a thickness of below 50 microns by either:

– taking measures to reduce annual average consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags to 90 per person by the end of 2019, and 40 by 2025;

– or by ensuring that by the end of 2018, no more lightweight plastic carrier bags are handed over free of charge to shoppers.

Member states have a 18-month limit to transpose it into their national law.

However, this law allows oxo-degradable bags to continue to be used in Europe despite their disastrous impact on the marine environment, where they degrade into smaller pieces of plastics impossible to remove from the environment.

Joan-Marc Simon from Zero Waste Europe said: “Plastic pollution is a global problem waiting for a global solution. As an international player, the EU should lead by example and not lag behind other countries in reducing usage of single-use plastic bags. The EU has now a target for reduction in the use of plastic-bags, we call on member states to put in place necessary measures to make this a reality.”

Marta Beltran from Fundació Prevenció de Residus said: “Our society can not afford the waste of resources and the environmental, social and economic impacts of plastic bags, including the oxo-degradables bags whose impacts on the trophic chain must be avoided. We want Zero Plastic Bags everyday; it’s time for reusables.”

Meadhbh Bolger from Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Single-use plastic bags are an iconic example of how Europe is stuck in a linear economy, dependent on the continuous extraction of scarce virgin resources for throwaway products. EU decision-makers need to ensure that the new Circular Economy Package makes sure we keep resources in the economy for as long as possible and that reduced consumption, reuse and recycling are the norm across the continent.”

Antidia Citores from Surfrider Foundation Europe said: “29 European cities have already committed to ban single-use plastic bags within our “Ban the plastic bag campaign”. The European directive recently adopted now gives the possibility to EU member states to legally ban single use plastic bags. We now call on Member States, cities and citizens to engage themselves in our campaign and say no to disposable plastic bags which affect so strongly the marine environment.

Piotr Barczak from European Environmental Bureau said: The case of unnecessary plastic bags clearly shows that improving environmental performance and waste management does not rely only on modern solutions, but is often about societal change. Very often we just need to look at the modes of consumption that were present decades ago and that had much less impact on the environment, like, in this case, reusable packaging.

The sixth edition of International plastic bag-free day sees groups from all over the world organising activities to raise awareness on the environmental impact of single-use plastic bags and to demand that governments act to stop marine littering.

The International Plastic Bag-Free Day www.plasticbagfreeday.org is organised by Zero Waste Europe, GAIA and the Fundació Catalana per a la Prevenció de Residus i Consum.

ENDS

[1] Zero Waste Europe, GAIA, the European Environmental Bureau, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe and the Foundation for Waste Prevention.

[2] European Commission press release: Commission seeks views on reducing plastic bag use

[3] Green Paper On a European Strategy on Plastic Waste in the Environment.

[4] Data taken from the International Bottom Trawl Survey and the Clean Seas Environmental Monitoring Programme by CEFAS.

[5] OSPAR, 2009

[6] European Commission press release, 30th June 2014

[7] Directive 94/62/EC

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CONTACTS

Joan-Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe jm.simon@zerowasteeurope.eu , +32 2 503 49 11

Piotr Barczak, Policy Officer on Waste, European Environmental Bureau, wasteresource@eeb.org, +32 (0) 2289 10 97

Antidia Citores, Law and lobbying manager, Surfrider Foundation Europe, acitores@surfrider.eu, +33 6 32 68 90 36

Meadhbh Bolger, Resource use Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe, meadhbh.bolger@foeeurope.org, +32 2893 10 34

Marta Beltran, Coordinator of Waste Campaigns, Fundació Prevenció de Residus i Consum, info@residusiconsum.org, +34 676 488 720

To find out more about the international plastic bag-free day see: www.plasticbagfreeday.org

***

NOTES:

Zero Waste Europe Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system. www.zerowasteeurope.eu

GAIA –Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives- is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries working for a world without waste. www.no-burn.org

Surfrider Foundation Europe is an environmental association, statute 1901, created in 1990 in France (Biarritz). During its existence, it has achieved real expertise in the areas of research, local action, as well as the creation and diffusion of educational tools. Today, it consists of a network of 1,700 volunteers, 10,000 members and 100,000 supporters in forty local offices that are active in twelve European countries. Find out more: www.surfrider.eu

The European Environmental Bureau is Europe’s largest federation of environmental organisations with more than 140 member organisations who gain their membership from the general public. The EEB is guided by the voices of 15 million European citizens, and acts as the ears and voice of its members towards EU decision makers and beyond. http://www.eeb.org/

Friends of the Earth Europe is the largest grassroots environmental network in Europe, uniting more than 30 national organisations with thousands of local groups: http://www.foeeurope.org

Fundació Prevenció de Residus i Consum -Catalan Foundation for Waste Prevention and Responsible Consumption- is a nonprofit organization driven by environmental organizations, universities, companies and municipalities. It promotes campaigns (like the International bag-free day, that begun in 2008 as a Catalan scope and leaded to the annual celebration worldwide) and projects in order to shift to a circular economy and a resource efficiency society. www.residusiconsum.org