Slide background
Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

The beginning of the end for the plastic bag in Tunisia? – Zero Waste Tunisia

An article from Zero Waste Tunisia, part of the developing Zero Waste Mediterranean network. If you part of, or want to join a zero waste group in the Mediterranean contact us to find out more.

The beginning of the end for the plastic bag?

It’s created in just a few seconds, serves a purpose for a only few minutes and takes more than 400 years to completely breakdown. It is, of course the plastic bag that Tunisians particularly adore for their shopping. However despite this disastrous love affair recent developments, including an agreement between the supermarkets and the government could herald the beginning of the end for the single-use plastic bag.

Plastic bags are a real scourge. In fact, they are harmful to the environment and kill thousands of animals each year. They are dumped our countryside and beaches releasing their poison everywhere and ending up in the soil.

Tunisians consume one billion plastic bags each year, of which 30% (approximately 315 million of them) come from the large supermarkets. Those 315 million bags are equal to 10,000 tons of plastic waste according to the ministry.

In an effort to phase plastic bags out, the Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment has  recently signed an agreement with the supermarket union chamber. This agreement, which was effective from the 1st of March, prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic bags.

The alternative is not difficult to find, in fact we could use the traditional Tunisian basket (the Koffa) or other ecological bags.

The minister describes that approach as “gradual” and which in a few months will result in a total ban on the manufacture and sale of plastic bags in Tunisia.

The idea is to encourage the factories to produce, using the same technologies, reusable bags that will be sold for use several times. It is also about changing the behavior of the consumer to control the use of plastic bags and think about alternative solutions.

The ministry has therefore opted for a progressive approach, in several stages instead of a global and radical approach which will not work.

So, will these plastic bags completely be eliminated by the end of the year? Will the environmental police control this issue, especially outside supermarkets? The coming months will provide an answer.

Find out more about the work of Zero Waste Tunisia on their website, and  get involved in & find out more about zero waste activities in the Mediterranean via our contact form


Plastic Bag Free Day 2016 Round-up

The 7th Annual Plastic Bag Free Day 2016 took place on July 3rd, seeing hundreds of actions take place around the world. With scores of organisations and hundreds of citizens taking part in events and awareness raising activities highlighting the environmental impact and hazards of single-use plastic bags.

A joint statement was released by a coalition of organisations including Fundació Prevenció de Residus, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Zero Waste Europe and others calling for the European Member States to take the final step and ban the use of plastic bags, replacing single use options with more sustainable and reusable alternatives.

In Slovenia, campaigners from Ekologi brez meja (Ecologists Without Borders), dressed up in plastic bags taking the form of a dreaded monster ‘bagfoot’ a ‘living humanoid reminder of the countless bags we use each year’ this monster then proceeded to interact with the citizens of Ljubljana.

This action strongly resembled the 8ft plastic monster that was unveiled, by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) in Jamaica.

Picture credit to NEPA
Picture credit to NEPA

In Nepal government ministers took the opportunity to announce the resumption of the plastic bag ban in the country. Citing poor monitoring for the failure of a previous ban they stated that there ‘will be proper regulations this time’.

In Cape Town, South Africa the Two Oceans Aquarium offered an exchange of single-use plastic bags for reusable and sustainable shopping bags highlighting the possible alternatives for shoppers who want to avoid plastic bags, the action also served to emphasise the impact that plastic shopping bags have on ocean waste, causing significant problems for sealife.

France saw their previously passed ban on single-use plastic bags coming into force only two days before Plastic Bag Free Day marking a significant landmark in the campaign to eliminate these destructive items from everyday life.

In Kerala, India students gave eco-friendly cloth bags to State legislators with the ultimate aim of reducing plastic waste and providing ‘smart alternatives for plastic-based necessities’.

In New Delhi Chintan organised an awareness campaign surveying residents on the plastics that they use, and looking into possible alternatives and solutions to the problems of plastic waste.

ESDO poster from Dhaka
ESDO poster from Dhaka

In Dhaka the Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO) launched electronic posters to raise awareness for the campaign.

These actions represent only a fraction of the total activities which took place around the world calling for a ban for the bag. Considerable progress has been made over the past year by many organisations and campaigners. However, with the recent revelations regarding the impact of ocean plastics on wildlife and human health the issue of plastic waste has rarely seemed more urgent. The success of Plastic Bag Free Day is central to raising awareness of this problem, and pushing for an effective ban on the non-compostable bag!


PRESS RELEASE: EU Member States asked to deliver final decisive effort for Europe to break free from single-use plastic bags

  • 2cb7fca5-0f8c-454a-a379-a1ad5341ab34
  • f8c29f25-f08e-42a1-a293-efa5b03849a6
  • 6da27666-4a69-4ed8-906a-545cc011f284
  • Print
  • ca534e9a-d2c7-4362-86e3-de8e86b87de4
  • 32fdc1ae-0b6f-440a-8d42-fb82c6af41a7
  • fa009cfc-ce97-4aa9-9774-82b68ca73b74.jpg
  • c45db122-55f7-42f7-a078-bb81f5d8ea35
  • df77f8b2-33e0-4893-8beb-2f193cb1e1e0
  • 00a368bb-01e9-4592-9c57-c9e19a292f81
  • 48dcc54b-a856-4f9f-bf00-a8e47bbd4bbe

For immediate release: Brussels, July 1, 2016

Only 4 months away from the transposition deadline of the EU Plastic bags directive, environmental NGOs celebrate today the 7th edition of the International Plastic Bag Free Day. 2016 is a pivotal year which will pave the way towards what NGOs hope, a European plastic bag free future.

EU governments have until the end of November to adopt national legislative measures to drastically reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags. While many initiatives have popped up locally, some Member States are still lagging behind in engaging in the fight against plastic bag pollution. At the same time, some EU countries such as Italy and France already have, or are planning bans on plastic bags and are paving the way ahead.

More than 100 billion bags are used annually in Europe and most end up in landfills, incinerators or as litter in aquatic environments. In addition to harming the marine environment, producing these bags requires millions of barrels of oil per year. Moreover, plastic bags can take centuries to degrade and are responsible, together with other litter items, for the deaths of an estimated 100,000 marine mammals every year.

collage

The International Plastic Bag Free Day, celebrated over the World on July 3rd, is a unique occasion for Fundació Prevenció de Residus, together with NGOs Surfrider Foundation Europe and Zero Waste Europe, and the undersigned organisations to spread the word that a plastic bag free world is possible and that sound environmental alternatives to single use plastic bags are available.

NGOs ask governments to show ambition and caution, recalling that paper bags and biodegradable bags remain single use options and should be avoided. They call on the European Commission to speed up the two reports promised in the Plastic Bags directive on very-lightweight and oxo-degradable plastic bags, as they are still far too common in the European market. Oxo-degradable bags, in particular, have proven to be extremely harmful for the marine environment, as they break into small pieces impossible to remove.

European citizens expect national governments to seize this opportunity for action. NGOs too call on governments to set an example, and take ambitious action: We are glad that more and more regions, municipalities and Member States are taking on what Italy has started in 2011 with its ban on single use bags. It is now time for all EU Member States to take their responsibilities and stop the plastic bag flow – whether they are used as carrier bags or for the transport of fruits and vegetables- into the environment and eventually into the Ocean”.

ENDS

More information:

www.plasticbagfreeday.org

www.surfrider.eu/en/ban-the-bag

www.zerowasteeurope.eu


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

***

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


Let’s clean up Europe!

Every year, millions of tonnes of litter end up in oceans, beaches, forests and elsewhere in nature. That’s why between 8th and 10th May, we celebrated the clean up Europe day within the campaign “Let’s clean up Europe”. This campaign that takes place annually intends to bring visibility and raise awareness of the problem of littering and its causes, such as poor waste management and unsustainable consumption patterns.

The event took place simultaneously all over the European Union and in five non-EU European States. Year after year, “Let’s Clean Up Europe!” manages to fight littering and to increase consciousness on the origin of the problem and how this affects the ecosystems. Let’s clean up Europe is coordinated by the European Week for Waste Reduction. Here you can find further information on the campaign, the local organizations involved and the actions that were carried out.

clean_eu

Communities Demand an End to Plastic Bags on #plasticbagfreeday


More than 100 organizations from all over the world took action on the International Plastic Bag Free Day, celebrated last 3rd July, to demand an end to plastic bags use and raise awareness about its impacts on the environment, most importantly in the marine ecosystems.

plasticbagfreeday_eccj

The growing number of groups that sign-on to this international day of action, and the wide variety of activities celebrated across the world, showed that sensitivity towards the impacts from plastic bags is increasing significantly. As a main result, communities are getting organized to demand effective measures to cut back plastic bags and plastic waste in general, which has been described as an ugly, unhealthy, unsustainable and useless product.


plastic bag ariadna

Furthermore, plastic bags are a major threat to biodiversity and contribute to maintaining the throwaway society patterns that are trashing our finite resources and polluting the environment. From a sustainability point of view, the 80 million of tones of plastic waste that can be found in the sea represent 100 million barrels of oil. These and other outstanding facts and figures about the impacts of plastic bags have been heard across the world in a wide variety of actions – see complete map of actions:

The organizers of the International Plastic Bag Free Day expressed their satisfaction with the international response to the call out for action.

“Plastic bags are a great place to start taking action and design waste out of our systems”, said Joan Marc Simon, Zero Waste Europe ‘s Executive Director, one of the organizing networks together with GAIA and Fundació per a la Prevenció de Residus. “We are moving forward building up zero waste societies that are resource-efficient and plastic bags have no place in them”.

The campaign for a Plastic Bag Free World will continue throughout the year on a regular basis supporting groups and individuals all over the world in its mission to phase out plastic bags from our consumption habits and ecosystems.

Further info: www.plasticbagfreeday.org

https://www.facebook.com/plasticbagfreeday

Plastic Bag Free Day @bagfreeday

Contact: info(at)plasticbagfreeday.org


‘Management of organics, A Fundamental Pillar For Zero Waste Success’ – Focus of Next International Training

One of the pillars of Zero Waste is source separation of organics –the only way to obtain clean, high-quality compost. The most successful experiences within the Zero Waste network, those places that have achieved separate collection percentages above 80% such as Capannori, Hernani, or the region of Contarina, have implemented a source separation of organic waste to ensure the maximization of this material and avoid the contamination in other waste streams. Morever, a growing number of Zero Waste municipalities are separately collecting biowaste and other waste fractions and already achieve high recovery rates combined with job creation.

In this way, source separation of organic waste offer the biggest potential for improving recycling rates, reducing waste going to landfill and incinerators and providing a good source of nutrients to be brought back to soils via composting. Alternatively, organic waste is an untapped energy source to create biogas through Anaerobic Digestion technologies.

In any case, organic waste represents 30 to 40% of our household waste in Europe, thus solving the collection and treatment of organic waste is key to ensure the financial and environmental feasibility of a Zero Waste Strategy. Furthermore, the tendency to maximise material recovery of biowaste is a growing one and this is confirmed by the roadmap for a Resource Efficient Europe (2013) and the communication Towards a Circular Economy (2014). New EU recycling targets will –directly or indirectly- make separate collection of biowaste mandatory in order to achieve the ambitious benchmarks the EU is aiming for in 2030.

How shall we implement a successful organic waste management system?

The management of organic matter from MSW is an essential part of sustainable management of resources and all European municipalities need to get up to speed with this. And yet, municipalities may be faced with a number of questions as to how to implement a user-friendly, efficient and economically feasible system. Whether it is a city, a town or a village; whether there is more or less population density; whether inhabitants live in terraced houses or high-rise buildings…all of these circumstances will need to be taken into account when designing a solid organic waste management system.

Fortunately, after decades of experiences and with consolidated practices in the field of collection and treatment of organic waste, today it is possible to assess any given situation and design a system to capture most of organic waste present in MSW and ensure high quality output, saving costs to the communities and bringing the nutrients back to the soils.

Banner training without adverts

With the aim of contributing to the development of well-designed and efficient organic waste management systems, Zero Waste Europe organises the first International Training Course on Organics Management. This hands-on high-profile course will empower waste managers, policy makers and activists with all necessary tools to design and implement cost-efficient high-quality programs for biowaste management.

The course will be given by Dr Marco Ricci, Dr Enzo Favoino and Dr Alberto Confalonieri from the Scuola Agraria del Parco di Monza, all of them pioneers in the separate collection and treatment of organic waste in Italy and in Europe. Moreover, it will be an excellent opportunity to network with European zero waste groups and be part of strategic discussions and vision development.

Register now for the International Training Course on Biowaste Management- Donosti, 13-15 October.

Looking forward to seeing you in Donosti!


Press Release on International bag-free day: EU Council of Ministers must clamp down on use of plastic bags

[Brussels, July 3, 2014 – joint press release]

Logos PR brussels

On the International Plastic Bag-Free Day, EU Ministers must support a European Parliament proposal which sets limits on environmentally damaging single-use plastic bags, according to a coalition of environmental and waste prevention organisations [1].

Every European uses an estimated 500 plastic bags a year on average [2], 92.5% of which are single-use. Around 90 billion single-use plastic bags were used in the EU in 2010, and single-use bags accounted for 73% of the waste collected along the Tuscan coast [3]. These petroleum based products can contain toxic additives such as endocrine disruptors and carcinogens migrate into marine environment and enter the food chain via marine fauna.

Plastic bags made up around 40% of all the marine litter across UK waters and the North Sea [4], and in the Bay of Biscay over 90% of waste items found on the seabed were plastic [5].

In April, the European Parliament tabled proposals to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags by 80% across the EU by 2019 – with measures including charges, bans, awareness-raising campaigns and restrictions on the use of hazardous substances and oxo-degradables in plastic bags. For this proposal to become EU law, the Council of Ministers must now approve it. In this regard, 92 % of the respondents to the new survey from Eurobarometer agree that measures should be taken to reduce the use of single-use plastic items, such as shopping bags [6].

Joan-Marc Simon from Zero Waste Europe said: “Plastic pollution is a global problem waiting for 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 Commission and the Parliament have put forward a realistic and necessary proposal, we call the Council of Ministers to uphold it and improve it”.

Antidia Citores from Surfrider Foundation Europe said: “Single use plastics bags are used for a few minutes but stay for centuries in our seas and oceans. In 2011, more than 70% of respondents to an EU consultation were supportive of a ban on single use plastic bags and in 2013, more than 22,500 European citizens signed our petition for an EU ban on disposable plastic bags. Member States have now a unique opportunity to help tackling one of the most emblematic sources of marine litter. Oceans cannot wait more.”

Piotr Barczak from European Environmental Bureau said: “Our reliance on single-use packaging makes no sense. Plastic bags are one of the easiest waste streams to tackle, and the Council can now act to end this unsustainable, throw-away practice that has become a norm in our society.

Ariadna Rodrigo from Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Single-use plastic bags are an example of how we mismanage our resources in Europe. Rather than keeping materials in our economy for as long as possible, we are extracting evermore resources for short-lived products that we do not need. The European Parliament supported actions to eradicate this situation, now the Council needs to act.”

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 and marine littering. Strong reduction in the consumption of plastic bags is necessary to contribute achieve the objectives towards a resource-efficient Europe and eradicate marine littering.”

The fifth 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, 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
***
YOUR CONTACT
Joan-Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe news.europe@no-burn.org , +34 646 40 89 63
Piotr Barczak, Policy Officer on Waste, European Environmental Bureau, piotr.barczak@eeb.org, +32 (0) 2289 10 97

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

Ariadna Rodrigo, Resource use Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe, ariadna.rodrigo@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 communitties 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. 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.
Friends of the Earth Europe is the largest grassroots environmental network in Europe, uniting more than 30 national organisations with thousands of local groups. 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 (some of them retailers) 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 for waste prevention and information exchange among social, economical and institutional sectors in order to shift to a circular economy and a resource efficiency society. www.residusiconsum.org

A Massive Let’s Do It! Cleaning up the Mediterranean Coast

On the 10th and 11th of May, tens of thousands of volunteers from communities all around the Mediterranean Sea and from three continents gathered to participate in simultaneous Clean-Up Events that took place in 15 countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, becoming the most widespread civic-led event ever organised in this area.

With this project, Let’s Do It! Mediterranean aimed to draw attention to the pollution of the Mediterranean Sea and motivate communities to work together to change the situation. Studies show that the contamination of the Mediterranean Sea is very high and the level of plastic waste is beyond critical. In certain places the volume of micro plastic in the water exceeds that of plankton.

Faisal Sadegh, the project coordinator of Let’s Do It! Mediterranean emphasized that the impact of marine litter and waste in general goes beyond national boundaries. “Pollution does not stop at a country’s border, and the problems are spreading to affect the Mediterranean region in more direct ways than ever before,” Sadegh said.

Eva Truuverk, Head of Partners and Finance with Let’s Do It! World explained further; “for example, huge landfills can be found on Lebanese beaches, and trash is carried into the sea by winds and due to the currents reach the shores of other countries”, she said.

Precisely, Sadegh pointed out that this is exactly the reason why Let’s Do It! Mediterranean invited the whole region to participate and clean up together.

Lets do it in Malta
Divers and beach cleaners on Malt

 

“There have been separate cleanup actions, but the scale and scope of this project is unprecedented. We need to work together for the environment we all share.” Indeed, Let’s Do It! Mediterranean invited everyone to participate with their families, neighbors, colleagues, and make this event a truly community empowering experience. “It simply works better and is much more fun together,” encouraged Sadegh.

 

lets do it in greece
Children were also involved in the clean-up actions in Greece

Moreover, actions were supported by fishermen, schools, local people, tourist groups, and most importantly by diving organisations. One of the coordinating organisation for underwater actions, the Greek diving club Samos Divers, has the experience of removing trash from even 40 meters deep.

“Living on an island, the sea has been my ‘playground’ for four decades. I have been scuba diving for 20 years. The comparison of my childhood memories of the sea and its current state often saddens me. The truth about marine debris is that just because we often cannot see it, does not mean it’s not there,” said the leader of Samos Divers, Alexandros Malagaris.

“My deepest motive for getting seriously involved with underwater cleanups is so that my son Philippos, age 6, and my daughter Olympia, age 3, will be able to enjoy the wonders of the sea the way I did as a little boy. Abundant sea life in crystal clear waters, with the absence of tires, boat batteries, bottles, cans and plastics,” expressed Malagaris.

lets do it montenegro
Montenegro had more than 3000 volunteers and gathered a great amount of waste.

In Croatia, more than 5000 people took part in 30 Clean-Up Actions on the Mediterranean coast. During the Clean-Up action in Split, on the Croatian coast, more than 40 Estonian volunteers joined 300 local people, including 100 divers and marines, and together cleaned up the sea bottom from waste. As a result of this cooperation, four tones of waste were collected from the sea and beach in Split. Other actions took place in Egypt, Montenegro, Estonia, Malta, Lebanon, Tunisia and many other countries, as reported by Let’s Do It! Mediterranean.

let's do it in egypt
Clean-up actions in Egypt collected all this waste and more

The Let’s Do It! Mediterranean campaign is run and organised by volunteers, and the team plans to organise massive actions in concentrated periods until 2018. The “Let’s Do It!” movement started in Estonia in 2008, when a country with a population slightly over 1 million brought together 50,000 people to clean up the entire country in just five hours. By today, almost 10 million people and over 100 countries have joined the Let’s Do It! network. Find out more about Let’s Do It World and join in!

Lets do it Med
After cleaning-up our beloved Mediterranean sea, time to celebrate community action with a delicious cake!

Packaging-free shopping on the rise in Europe

bulk goods in reusable bag

The number of shops in Europe that sell in bulk is growing constantly. Aside from the well-established Italian Effecorta and Catalan Granel, in Vienna Lunzers Mass-Greisslerei is offering products in bulk to the Austrians, whereas in Germany a new shop called Unverpackt opened its doors a month ago in Kiel.

In Berlin, Biosphäre is a social, non-profit organic shop, which started offering cleaning products without packaging in 2013 and bulk food products this month – both with excellent results. During the usual learning period, paper bags are used to fill dry food products from large dispensers (“bulk bins”), though more and more customers are starting to purchase reusable cotton pouches and to bring their own containers to the shop. Thus the amount of disposable packaging is steadily decreasing.

biosphere berlin

The shop is located in Berlin’s Neukölln district, and the goods have two prices: the cheaper one reserved for customers with low incomes. All products in the shop are high quality and organic, and priority is given to the small producers in the region.

Hence it is a shop that generates sustainable jobs inside and outside the business, it has a low ecological footprint because most of the products have not travelled long distances, doesn’t leave waste behind and it is also a good opportunity for the locals to eat local and healthy food without having to pay more than in other shops. The concept for Biosphäre’s packaging-free food section was developed by the new company, unverpackt-einkaufen, (“shop unpackaged”), which aims to integrate packaging-free alternatives within existing grocery businesses in Germany.

During 2014 new shops selling in bulk will be opening in Berlin and elsewhere, stay tuned for the good news!

biosphere berlin8
biosphere berlin2
biosphere berlin4
biosphere berlin6
bulk grains in reusable jar

Weak EU proposal to tackle single-use plastic bags

Today the European Commission has released its long-awaited proposal to tackle the plastic-bag issue. After a long process of conferences, consultations, impact assessments and discussions the Commission will be asking the European countries to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags. How much should they reduce it and how it is something that is left to the member states to decide…
(for official wording read at the end of the post)

One should wonder why we had to wait so long and invest so many resources to get something that is so obvious; of course the EU should be reducing the use of single-use plastic bags!

Single-use plastic, and especially single-use plastic bags are one of the main obstacles on the way to get a Zero Waste Europe. Plastic is manufactured from oil or gas, both are materials that take milions of years to be produced and hence should not be used to get a service of some minutes, at best some days.

Single-use carrier bags don’t represent a big amount of our waste in tonnage, yet they are one of the best examples of bad design. They represent the throw-away society at its best. In this context, the decision of the European Commission to oblige member states to reduce its use is to be welcomed but remains far from the paradigm shift that the EU needs.

Where are the incentives for better design?

Besides the reduction in the use of single-use plastic bags the Commission’s proposal doesn’t even tackle the issue of toxics in plastic or badly designed plastics. For instance, there is wide consensus between NGOs and industry about the danger of oxodegradable plastics for they endanger both composting and recycling operations. A minimal step in the direction of good design would have been to ban these additives.

Whereas some countries in the world have banned plastic bags all together the EU lags behind with a weak voluntary scheme. A wanting record if the EU wants to be a world front-runner in environmental issues.

———-

The text of the Commission reads:
“Further consideration of the policy options available has led to the conclusion that it would be difficult to design and implement an EU -wide reduction target applying to all Member States. Instead of establishing a common EU target, it is therefore preferable to introduce in Directive 94/62/EC the obligation for all Member States to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags, while allowing them to set their own national reduction targets and to choose the measures to reach those targets. At a later stage the establishment of an EU-wide reduction target could however be considered.”

———-

For more information:

Link to the draft proposal and to the study (with the figures for MS, as mentioned above):

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/packaging/legis.htm#plastic_bags

See also:

Q&A MEMO/13/945

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/plastic_waste.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/index.htm

Results of the public consultation:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/packaging/events.htm

Audio visual material (VNR) available at tvlink.org

The documents are available as follows:

Draft Impact Assessment of different options to reduce plastic bag consumption


Zero Bag – Zero Waste! The 4th International Plastic Bag Free Day

Zero Bag - Zero Waste

Plastic bags have been in the spotlight a lot this year. From bans in Los Angeles and Manila to tax levies in Scotland, it seems that the tide is turning on disposable, single-use plastic bags. On the 4th International Plastic Bag Free Day, observed in different locations between the 3rd and the 10th of July 2013, individuals and groups from around the world held events and made statements in support of a move away from disposable plastic.

The purpose of the day, which was organised jointly by GAIAZero Waste Europe, and Fundació Prevenció Residus i Consum, was to emphasise the alternatives to single-use plastic bags and the dangers they present to marine and land ecosystems. The campaign received expressions of support from many prominent figures from around the world, including Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Program; Nohra Padilla (winner of the Goldman Prize for Latin America 2013); Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff; and Jeremy Irons, actor and star of the 2012 film ‘Trashed’.

Some groups, such as the Korea Zero Waste Movement Network in Seoul or the EcoWaste Coalition in Manila, Philippines, gathered supporters and took to the streets with placards to share their message with passers-by. Friends of the Earth groups in several Spanish cities campaigned with local businesses and shoppers , exchanging reusable cloth bags for single-use plastic bags. The Madrid chapter of Friends of the Earth created a model of the Pacific Garbage Patch to show in a city market, reminding shoppers where their disposable plastic waste can end up.

Philippines action
Protesters gathered in the Philippines to call for an extension of the ban in place in the capital, Manila.

 

Staff at Health Care Without Harm in the Philippines and at Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels photographed themselves holding slogans and uploaded the results to the Plastic Bag Free Day website or the campaign’s Facebook page. Many used the campaign’s website and related social media sites to pledge personal action and reiterate their commitment to ending consumption of single-use plastic bags.

Environmental groups, such as DUH in Germany and the Argentinian Citizen’s Coalition Against Incineration, drafted statements calling on their governments to take action to reduce plastic bag production and disposal. ‘Initiatives Océanes’, launched by the Surfrider Foundation Europe, used the day to announce a petition to the European Commission calling for an EU-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. So far, the petition has gathered over 10,000 signatures.

supermarket
Stallholders at Barcelona’s Concepció Market showed their support by wearing campaign T-shirts.

The campaign used social media to connect individuals and organisations from around the world, reaching more than 20,000 individuals via Facebook and Twitter. The resulting network of supporters will be able to communicate with one another and continue to work on plastic pollution and waste issues throughout the year.

Over the last four years the event has grown in size and in quality, as the effects of single-use plastic on the environment have become increasingly visible to everyone.

With this year’s slogan, ‘Zero Bags – Zero Waste’, people from around the world shout that there is no place for single-use plastic bags on our finite planet!

Sonia
Shahriar
Jane
Raul
Von

 


Zero Bags – Zero Waste; act for a plastic bag free world!

 

postersmallzbzw

Time to say enough is enough. As we speak, thousands of single-use plastic carrier bags are entering the environment and there is little prospect that the amount of marine litter will start decreasing anytime soon.

Every year the urgency to act on plastic pollution increases, this is why GAIA, Zero Waste Europe and the Fundació Catalana per la Prevenció de Residus i Consum are organising the International Plastic Bag Free Day.

The International Plastic Bag Free Day is a worldwide action that starts on July 3rd and will go on until July 10th. Groups from all continents will be organising actions to restrict the use of single-use plastic bags. This is the 4th year of actions for alternatives to plastic bags.

There are several reasons why we should phase out single-use plastic bags in Europe.

 

single use plastic bags are

Although Europeans have overwhelmingly supported a ban on single-use plastic bags for quite some time, the European Commission still hasn’t issued any guidance or rules on how to address this problem. The upcoming review of recycling targets for packaging waste is an opportunity that should not be missed in order to stop this source of pollution and incentive to bad consumption.

What can you do?

Organise something to raise awareness or to demand a change in the policy of your country/region and upload them to the website of the campaign: http://plasticbagfreeday.org/en/getinvolved/

The concrete shape of your action is for you to decide, you can organise clean-ups, send letters to decisions makers, record videos… it’s up to you! If you need some inspiration here are some hints:

Take a photo of:

–          Plastic bags in nature;

picmic1

–          Handing reusable bags to politicians – mayor, ministers etc;

–          Famous local people posing with you and a reusable cloth bag;

–          Yourself with a petition or a statement about plastic bags.

Protect nature:

–          Return plastic bags found in nature to industry (manufacturers, distributors ..);

–          Collect plastic bags found in nature and create art pieces exhibited in visible areas of the city-      such as car parks or even in a museum – invite politicians, media or any famous people to the opening;

–          Return single-use plastic bags found in nature to emblematic buildings (environment ministry etc).

Organise actions:

plarn shopping bag
via @ecolutionist

–          Workshop of reusable bags;

–          Give prizes to people who are not asking for a plastic     bag in the shops;

–          Customise your reusable bag (painting, sewing, patchworking…);

–          Creating the “no plastic bag” logo with plastic bags;

–          Giving consumers in shopping centres a reusable bag in exchange for their single-use one;

–          Single-use bags can be shown in a big net so that people can see that plastic bags are still very much consumed;

–          Smart mob with participants and volunteers in a mall or any commercial area with bags on their heads entering shops normally;

You can download some graphs and tools from here.

You can follow the facebook campaign here or follow us on twitter @bagfreeday

When?

The actions take place from 3rd to10th of July.

Please join this global action and promote it among your friends. Together we can get rid of single-use plastic bags and get closer to Zero Waste!

See the Press Release issued by ZWE, GAIA and the Surfrider Foundation Europe asking the European Commission to act on the issue of single-use plastic carrier bags.


Good plastics, bioplastics and greenwashing

DONTKNOW

How to distinguish a petrol-based plastic from a bioplastic? Are they all recyclable? What about degradable plastics?

These are questions that a normal citizen has to face when dealing with the myriad of plastic-made products, packaging and alike. Is it toxic? Is it recyclable? Is it biodegradable? In which bin does this plastic go? With the recyclables? With the organics? With the residuals? What do all these logos mean?

The answer is not easy; there are thousands of different plastics serving many different purposes, from flexible, air-tight and see-through to hard, thick and coloured. If well used its good properties can make our life easier, if badly used it can poison us or pollute the environment for the next 500 years…

The applications of plastic are unlimited and with this material the demand drives the production; in other words, factors such as toxicity and/or recyclability are very rarely taken into account when the plastic object is designed. On top of bad design one should also bear in mind that in Europe most plastic escapes separate collection circuits which causes that only one fifth of all plastic is separately collected for recycling.

Plastic waste, what way forward?

The European Commission published a green paper and launched a public consultation to address this issue. Generally speaking there are 4 issues to be addressed:

–          How to increase plastic recycling,

–          How to monitor the inflows of different kinds of plastic,

–          How to stop plastic from entering the environment,

–          How to make sure that we make the best use of plastic

Only 21% of EU’s plastic waste is recycled – How to increase it?

Following the waste hierarchy most plastic should be prevented, a good deal of plastic should be reused and an even smaller amount should be recycled at the end of its life. Sadly the reality illustrates the opposite picture; in the EU of the 25 Million of tones of generated plastic waste (2008) 48.7% was landfilled, 51.3% was incinerated, and only 21.3% was recycled.

 

Currently there are plastic recycling targets for municipal solid waste, construction and demolition (C&D) waste, end-of-life vehicles (ELV), Packaging, Battery and WEEE. If the targets were met it would mean that 16 Mt of plastic waste would have been recycled (i.e. 64%, three times what is being recycled now). Why is plastic recycling so low in the EU? How do we stop plastic from ending in landfills and incinerators?

 

First of all it is clear that the current legal and economic incentives are not strong enough to steer plastic recycling. The separate collection of waste is not efficient enough and too many plastics –and other waste streams- end up in disposal facilities. Moreover, the extended producer responsibility schemes for plastic waste are scarce and its performance uneven; Germany recycles 98,5% of plastic packaging whereas Spain collects less than 30%. Also, markets for recycled plastic are not yet fully optimised and the demand of this secondary material low. Some measures to fix these problems are:

 

–          Ban or heavily tax disposal of recyclable plastic waste in landfills or incinerators,

–          Encourage as much as possible separate collection of plastic waste –pay as you throw- and penalise mixed waste,

–          Limit or promote replacing of toxic substances that contaminate the recycled pulp such as BFRs, POPs, PBB, HBCDD.

–          Targets for quality of recycled output –such as end of waste criteria that equals high quality recycled plastic with virgin plastic- in order to provide a good market for the secondary product,

 

Plastic, bio-plastic, biodegradable plastic, oxodegradable plastic…

 

There are 1000s of plastics out there and many more are coming every year, no wonder many people are getting confused as to what can be recycled, composted or disposed of.

 

“Traditional” plastics are made of non-renewable sources such as oil or gas and if well designed they can be recycled. On the other hand bioplastics are plastics which can have the same properties as oil-based plastics but with the difference that they are produced from renewable biomass sources such as vegetable fats or corn starch. Bioplastics can be designed to be either recyclable or compostable, but not both. Moreover most compostable bioplastics do not decompose the same way, whereas some can biodegrade in the conditions of home-composting the big majority of biodegradable bioplastics require very specific conditions of temperature and humidity which are only fit for industrial composting plants.

 

To complicate things further there are petroleum-based plastics that claim biodegradability when what they do is fragment thanks to an oxidising additive; the oxo-degradable plastics. In other words, they don’t degrade but break into small pieces which can pollute soils, increase risk of ingestion for animals and endanger quality plastic recycling.

 

One can wonder why we don’t have a target of recycling 90 or 95% of the plastics when we know that they are all potentially recyclable but truth is that the different kinds of plastics and the many additives and toxics used make plastic recycling or composting difficult. Some ways to address this confusion can be:

 

–          Restrict the use the real biodegradable plastics for the purpose of food packaging so that they can be collected with the organic waste and properly composted,

–          Ensure quality recycling for the non-biodegradable plastics and promote design-for-recycling and not design-for-the-dump approach,

–          Ban the use of oxo-degradable plastics which only endanger recycling and composting,

 

 

Single-use plastic? Do we really want that?

 

middleEast5

Plastic production comes at a high environmental and economic cost, yet it is still very cheap –and subsidised- in comparison with the alternatives. One of the results is the wide-spread use of single-use products, most of them made of plastic. Plastic bags are the best example of this practice.

 

From the design point of view it is quite stupid to use one of the most durable materials to produce the shortest lived products. And as we have seen one of the dangerous solutions in the market is to add additives such as the d2W to make plastic “disappear” when in reality it only breaks it into smaller pieces making impossible recovering it for recycling and endangering composting. See what the plastic recyclers and bioplastic associations say about oxo-degradable plastics.

 

It is a no-brainer that single use plastic bags –which represented 92% of the 95,5 billion carrier bags in the EU in 2010- should be phased out (with bans or with taxation).

 

Other packaging such as PET beverage bottles can be made subject to a deposit and return system which would motivate the holder to recuperate his deposit. For certain plastic items, new entrepreneurial models such as lease systems, where the producer remains the owner of the product, could be a useful tool to ensure that the item is collected and treated in an environmentally sound manner.

 

Another less known example of single use plastic that goes to pollute the environment are the micro-plastics and micro-beads which are present in personal care products such as soaps and creams. These micro plastics also end up in the environment and they enter the food chain.

 

Once in the environment – particularly in the marine environment – plastic waste can persist for hundreds of years, harm to the coastal and marine environment and to aquatic life follows from the 10 million tonnes of litter, mostly plastic, which end up in the world’s oceans and seas annually, turning them into the world’s biggest plastic dump. Waste patches in the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans are estimated to be in the order of 100 Mt, about 80% of which is plastic. Plastic debris causes sea species to suffer from entanglement or ingestion.

 

Plastic is not inert

Conventional plastic contains a large number, and sometimes a large proportion, of chemical additives which can be endocrine disruptors, carcinogenic or provoke other toxic reactions and can, in principle, migrate into the environment, though in small quantities. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as pesticides like DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), can attach themselves from the surrounding water to plastic fragments which can be harmful and enter the food chain via marine fauna.

 

All in all, a strong and concerted action regarding plastic and especially single use plastic is necessary. The Zero Waste strategy works at three levels;

 

  • Better design is needed to make plastics non-toxic and recyclable or compostable,
  • Better organisation is needed to make sure recyclable plastics are not mixed up with the compostable ones and separately collected to be properly recycled or composted,
  • Better legislation is necessary to ban/tax bad products or bad use of products, incentivise good prevention and recycling practices and build markets for recycled materials.

 

In the future plastic will be an asset or a liability depending on our capacity to address the above-mentioned issues. Zero Waste provides a strategy to make the best use of this great human invention so that it continues to make our life easier without endangering life of other species and future generations.


ZeroPlasticWeek Challenge is now!

We use so much plastic! Plastic waste that ends up in our oceans!
Fish eat plastic and we eat fish…… Buying less plastic = less plastic waste!

From Monday, 10 June 2013, 00:00 hrs, until Sunday, 16 June 2013, 23:59 hrs we are going to shop plastic-free! No new plastic for a whole week. You may use plastic which you already have, e.g., your toothbrush, sandwich bags, and your body scrub. But if it’s used up you will be facing a challenge!

This also includes food which is wrapped in plastic. You can make things yourself, a week without plastics or an alternative which is not wrapped in plastic can be a solution. Get creative and create plastic-free situations!

Share photos, movie clips, tips and tricks on Facebook and Twitter so that others can see what a fabulous Zero Plastic Hero you are.

Did you know that a new continent was discovered? A continent the size of France and Spain together. Without the presence of humans, animals, or nature, but only made from plastic! Have you already heard about this plastic soup? We have, and we are very concerned about the pollution of the Earth by increasing plastic waste.

Plastic needs 450 years to decompose, even though most plastic is only used for a very brief amount of time. Not very clever, is it? And seriously: Why does a cucumber or a pepper really need a plastic sleeve?

A lot of our plastic waste ends up in our immediate environment and ultimately in the ocean. Only a small amount gets recycled.

We want to make you aware of this global issue of concern and at the same time decrease plastic consumption.

What’s the plan? With as many people as possible we refuse to buy any plastic between 10 and 16 June 2013. A whole week without plastic – can you do it? Or: Do you accept the challenge? Will you participate in the Zero Plastic Week?

Guest Blog post from zeroplasticweek.org


Fantastic plastic

Plastic represents one of the biggest contradictions of our society. One one hand it is a material that it is strong, cheap and light and hence its convenience means it is everywhere and use for almost everything. On the other hand the main advantages of plastic are also the problem why plastic is such a problem.

Because it is cheap it gets disposed a lot more than it should, because it is light it is often blown away and because it doesn’t biodegrade it pollutes forests, rivers and oceans and has already entered the food chain.

The wise thing to do would be to limit the use of plastic to what is necessary and make sure that there is a plan for all plastic that enters the market to maximise the time of use and then ensure that it is all collected and recycled.

For instance; as we can see in the graph below from Education Database Online Blog it takes 1/4 liter of oil and 3 liters of water to produce the plastic bottle that we will use only once and for a very limited amount of time to drink 1liter of water!

From the design point of view it doesn’t make sense to engineer a material that will take centuries to degrade to be used only during some hours in the best case. The wise thing to do is take advantage of the fact that the material is indestructible to design a system to collect and refill it like it is done in some deposit systems in Europe.

In 2009, Europe landfilled 45% of plastic (11,2 million tn, equivalent to more than 10 million tons of crude oil!), it burned 22% (5,5 Mtn) and recycled only 31% (7,6 Mtn). Landfilling and burning of plastics (even with energy recovery) is a waste of energy and resources. As we can see in the graph below producing a new bottle out of recycled material needs only 12% of the energy that would be needed to manufacture a new one.

The EU Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potocnik explained the need to increase plastic recycling in Europe and how if we achieve 70% recycling it would mean creating 160,000 additional jobs. Further, a new report from the European Commission explained how EU exports of plastic to Asia for recycling have increased 5 times in the last decade.

Isn’t it time for the EU to gear up and design better plastics -with less toxics-, better products and better systems that allow us to make use of the advantages of plastic without having to suffer all the disadvantages?

 

Please Include Attribution to OnlineEducation.net With This Graphic


How to measure sustainability?

www.seppo.net

Is Zero Waste good for the economy? Sure it is! Does it show in current indicators? Mmm… not always. What’s wrong here?

 

One of the main reasons that can explain the current European economic crisis are something as simple –yet complicated- as indicators. The quest for GDP growth has driven the EU countries through very unsustainable paths. Indeed current indicators give an extra bonus to a throw-away society; for every piece of waste we generate, a new process of extraction, processing, transport, manufacture and disposal is triggered which the increases the economic activity making GDP grow. This explains the obsession for consumption of throw-away goods; the more garbage we produce the better for the economy! But this is true only when measured with traditional indicators. Common sense tell us that producing more waste can not be good for the economy, but according to current indicators it is.

 

For instance, if we stop buying bottled water in single-use packaging and change to tap water or if we start replacing single-use plastic bags for reusable bags we will be reducing economic activity as it is measured with traditional indicators. There is obviously something wrong with our indicators if sustainability features as a minus and not as a plus.

 

In the long run, unsustainable practices end up harming the economy so badly that even traditional indicators such as GDP show it but then it is often too late to act. Climate change is a good example of this; there is scientific consensus that global warming is taking place but too often measures to mitigate it they depress traditional indicators such as GDP growth -despite improving sustainability!-. Another example, home composting captures carbon, builds top soil, saves transport, collection & transport emissions and educates society but from the point of view of GDP incineration of organic waste features better despite vastly increasing CO2 emissions & wasting energy in the collection and burning.

 

There is no discussion on the need to replace or complement GDP as an indicator, the discussion is which indicators to chose: UNEP and the UNU-IHDP presented the Inclusive Wealth Index in June which measures wealth using countries’ natural, manufactured, human and social capital, and which is intended as a replacement to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Human Development Index (HDI). Also the European Commission has been working on indicators in the Beyond GDP, measuring progress, true wealth, and the well-being of nations. Many environmental indicators can be found here. Friends of the Earth also proposes indicators to measure Resource Use.

 

However the EU is still stuck in old and failed ways of measuring economic activity and the current debate on austerity vs growth can’t be more missleading and self-defeating. It is time to replace or strongly balance GDP with a new indicator such as the IWI which takes into account sustainability and natural capital. The moment that takes places Zero Waste will be given a major push and landfills and incinerators will be a bit more buried into history.

 


Join the 3rd of July International bag-free day!

Can you imagine a Zero Waste world in which we continue to use single-use plastic bags? It is just not possible, right? There are several reasons why we should phase out single-use plastic bags in Europe.

Europeans overwhelmingly support a ban on single-use plastic bags and the European Commission tried to push such a measure during 2012 but it was stopped by the interests of some member states and a part of the industry. Yet another reason to continue asking for such a ban at national and international level.

On July 3rd takes place the  third international Plastic Bag-Free Day organised by GAIA, Zero Waste Europe and the Fundació Prevenció de Residus i Consum.

In Brussels EEB, GAIA and Seas At Risk have issued a Press Release asking the European Commission to ban single-use plastic bags.

What can you do?

Be creative with the way you want to put forward your demands. If you need some inspiration here you have some hints:

If you are an association/organisation:

* Organise a “Your bag or your life” action and  let us know here. We will be compiling the actions taking place all over the world and collect pictures, stories, etc to share with all and we will coordinate a global press release.
* Spread the 3 July Statement, International Day Free Bags
* Refuse to take disposable bags and promote the use of reusable bags: Everyday but especially on July the 3rd!
* Upload the logo of the campaign to your website/blog. See Section Artwork
* Joint press release of July 3 (soon to be published in the Press section).
* Promote the action in your facebook page.
* Organize a workshop for your associates promoting the cloth bag.
* Organise a workshop with children on the topic. Promote it in schools.

If you are a local/regional/national authority

* Make public statement on 3 July Statement
* Approve an ordinance to ban/reduce the use disposable bags
* Upload the logo of the campaign to your website/blog. See Section Artwork
* Tell media to cover events. Promote the action in your facebook page/blog.
* Take a picture of someone important in the institutions taking the plastic bag out of his/her head and use it as a promotion tool.
* Distribute reusable bags to shops and a flyer proposing alternatives to the use of single-use plastic bags.
* Joint press release of July 3.
* Organise a workshop with children on the topic. Promote it in schools.

If you are an individual

*Give your support to the action by signing up this statement. We will be gathering global support in favour of phasing-out plastic bags.

* Get together with your organisation, friends, family, neighbours, etc and organise a “Take the bag out of your head” action. If you do so please let us know here. We will be compiling the actions taking place all over the world and collect pictures, stories, etc to share with all and we will coordinate a global press release.

You can find graphic resources and ideas for your actions here.

You can join the facebook campaign here.

When?

The actions will take place from 1st till 8th of July, however the bag-free day stays on the 3rd of July. Please let us know beforehand if you are planning to organise an action.

Why?

There are many reasons! Here you have some:

http://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/2012/01/overwhelming-support-in-the-eu-for-plastic-bag-ban/

http://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/phasing-out-single-use-plastic-bags/

http://noplasticbags.blogspot.com/

http://culturechange.org/e-letter-plastics.html

http://www.envirosax.com/plastic_bag_facts

Please join this global action and promote it among your friends. Together we can get rid of single-use plastic bags and get closer to Zero Waste!


Overwhelming support in the EU for plastic bag ban

Over 70% of respondents to a European Commission public consultation have voted in favour of a ban on the distribution of plastic bags. Green groups such as Seas at Risk and EEB say the Commission should now act on this overwhelming support and implement a ban across Europe.

The public consultation was intended to explore options to reduce the use of plastic bags and options to improve the requirements of biodegradability under EU law.

Over 15,500 responses were gathered by the Commission with just over 15,000 replies from EU citizens.

The results of the consultation show that over 70% of respondents agree that a ban on plastic bags across the EU is needed with only 12% agreeing that current requirements on compostability and biodegradability in the Packaging Directive were appropriate.

Chris Carroll of Seas At Risk said: “Plastic bags are a menace to the marine environment and this consultation has shown that European citizens have had enough of them. The Commission must listen to this resounding support for a ban and implement one across Europe as soon as possible. The Commission must also now look at how to reduce the use of other single use and disposable products and packaging that often end up as waste in the marine environment.”

Stephane Arditi of the European Environment Bureau said: “With more than two thirds of respondents supporting a ban of single use plastic bags, a clear signal is being sent to European institutions: it’s time for longer lasting products and for effective legal instruments supporting waste prevention.“

Source: Seas at risk


An alternative to single-use plastic bags in Europe?

Are all single-use plastic bags the same?  Do they have the same impact on the environment? Are biodegradable bags better than non-biodegradable? Are paper bags better than biodegradable plastic bags?

First things first; before focusing on the material we have to focus on the product, i.e. the best is to avoid disposable bags whenever possible. Remember: prevention is always the best option! Before the invention of plastic bags this waste stream was absolutely insignificant –composed only of those reusable bags that broke after years of use and could not be mended.

Therefore, the discussion on whether a biodegradable plastic bag is better than a non-biodegradable one is as important as it is secondary. First option is reduce, second option is recycle, third –and a sign of the inneficiency of our society- is disposal. Replacing a single-use plastic bag by a single-use biodegradable plastic-bag is not the solution, although it may help reduce the overall impact and pressures on environment.

Biodegradable vs non-biodegradable

If we have to choose between a single-use plastic bag and a single-use biodegradable plastic bag some studies claim that the bio-degradable plastic bags have a higher environmental impact but they are highly missleading. This is because of weak science; they do not consider the ecotoxicology and eutriphocation aspects of plastic. Moreover there is the problem that in these studies and other Life Cycle Assessments they tend to neglect the benefits of composting (which is the primary route for post-use management of biodegradable bags) by not integrating the positive role on soils.

EU-ban on single-use plastic bags

Some countries in Europe have taken different measures to tackle the burden of single-use plastic bags. It is only recently that Janez Potocnik, EU Commissioner for Environment has announced that the EU will study an EU-ban for single-use plastic bags.

A ban on any single-use plastic bag in the EU is a great idea but it should be handled with care to make sure that the biodegradable bags which will replace the current single-use plastic bags are truly biodegradable -i.e. they do not just “fragment”-. This ban should be accompanied with clear reduction targets in terms of single bag units put on the market.

Therefore, an European ban on plastic bags could work if the rule would concurrently state that by biodegradable bags we understand those that follow the European Norm 13432. This EN 13432 requires biodegradation of 90% of the materials in a lab testing within 180 days (of course, the fate of part of bioplastics is to be turned into compost at a compost site). However, more stringent criteria may be considered to ensure this biodegradability can also happen in home composting (some bioplastics degrade well also in home compost heaps, others more slowly) and marine environment.

Having serious standards of biodegradability is essential to make a difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable. Indeed some so-called “degradable plastics”which do not comply with EN 13432 (e.g. exo-degradables) just break into tiny pieces the size of plancton that do not decompose and end up in the food chain when they are eaten by fish or other animals . Some others do decompose properly but too slow to be composted with food waste, which makes them end up into rejects at the compost site.

Moreover there are very special cases when a single-use really bio-degradable plastic bag could be justified and , to some extend, also very helpful: i.e. to take out the organic waste separately and ease the separate collection of this waste-stream. If the bag is really biodegradable (for instance 100% corn-starch or potato-peel starch complying with EN13432, or also paper bags) it will not create problems in the composting plant and it will fully decompose in the process. This is being used succesfully by more than 20 million Italian and Spanish citizens, mainly in those municipalities doing door-to-door separate collection collection system, and helps achieving hihest captures, reduced percentatges of organics in residual waste, and subsequent operational optimisation. But this is probably the only exception that justifies single-use bio-degradable plastic bags.

All in all it would be very useful if the European Commission could show more than simpathy for the 3rd International Bag-free day and would produce a clear rule as to how to phase out single-use plastic bags. In order to do so it is necessary to associate the ban to EU-wide prevention targets and when necessary even taxation. The funds collected with a tax on single-use plastic bags could be used to finance alternatives and clean the damage done by plastic bags in land and sea.

For the moment it is a fact that single-use plastic bags are bad for the environment (unless they are really biodegradable and deemed as a tool to optimize separate collection) and the economy and that many European countries started to take measures to reduce its use, it is also a fact that reusable bags look a lot nicer and trendier than single-use plastic bags. The environmental awareness in Europe is starting to get single-use plastic bags out of the way and prepare the path towards a Zero Waste society.


Join the 3rd of July International bag-free day!

Can you imagine a Zero Waste world in which we continue to use single-use plastic bags? It is just not possible, right? There are several reasons why we should phase out single-use plastic bags in Europe.

On July 3rd it will take place the  third international Plastic Bag-Free Day organised by GAIA and the Fundació Prevenció de Residus i Consum.

What can you do?

If you are an association/organisation:

* Organise a “Take the bag out of your head” action and  let us know here. We will be compiling the actions taking place all over the world and collect pictures, stories, etc to share with all and we will coordinate a global press release.
* Spread the 3 July Statement, International Day Free Bags
* Refuse to take disposable bags and promote the use of reusable bags: Everyday but especially on July the 3rd!
* Upload the logo of the campaign to your website/blog. See Section Artwork
* Joint press release of July 3 (soon to be published in the Press section).
* Promote the action in your facebook page.
* Organize a workshop for your associates promoting the cloth bag.
* Organise a workshop with children on the topic. Promote it in schools.

If you are a local/regional/national authority

* Make public statement on 3 July Statement
* Approve an ordinance to ban/reduce the use disposable bags
* Upload the logo of the campaign to your website/blog. See Section Artwork
* Tell media to cover events. Promote the action in your facebook page/blog.
* Take a picture of someone important in the institutions taking the plastic bag out of his/her head and use it as a promotion tool.
* Distribute reusable bags to shops and a flyer proposing alternatives to the use of single-use plastic bags.
* Joint press release of July 3.
* Organise a workshop with children on the topic. Promote it in schools.

If you are an individual

*Give your support to the action by signing up this statement. We will be gathering global support in favour of phasing-out plastic bags.

* Get together with your organisation, friends, family, neighbours, etc and organise a “Take the bag out of your head” action. If you do so please let us know here. We will be compiling the actions taking place all over the world and collect pictures, stories, etc to share with all and we will coordinate a global press release.

You can find graphic resources and ideas for your actions here.

You can join the facebook campaign here.

When?

The actions will take place on Sunday, 3rd of July. Please let us know beforehand if you are planning to organise an action.

Why?

There are many reasons! Here you have some:

http://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/phasing-out-single-use-plastic-bags/

http://noplasticbags.blogspot.com/

http://culturechange.org/e-letter-plastics.html

http://www.envirosax.com/plastic_bag_facts

Please join this global action and promote it among your friends. Together we can get rid of single-use plastic bags and get closer to Zero Waste!


Effecorta – Sustainable, Zero Waste shopping is possible!

Do you think that eating sustainable food has become a fulltime expensive job? This might be true in many places in Europe but there are more and more shops that show the way towards sustainability. Effecorta, in the ZeroWaste-pioneer town of Capannori in Italy, is a very good example of how sustainable, zero waste shopping is not only necessary but is also possible!

In the shop Effecorta 80% of the products come from 70km around the Capannori municipality (aiming to get to 95%) and many of them are organic.

But this is just the top of the iceberg; the shop adheres to the principle of Zero Waste and it doesn’t use any plastic bag or any non-reusable package. This is not only true for the tomatoes but also for soap, milk products, cosmetic creams, beer, wines, beans, rice, spices, salt, sugar… you name it! Everything they sell is in refillable, re-usable or/and biodegradable packaging.

This system:

– allows every buyer to buy according to its needs which minimises the waste eventually produced by normal packaged stuff and responsible for lots of food to be wasted (8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away by households in the UK every year),

– saves us from having to check the source and composition of the products because you know they are all local and in most of the cases organic (time saving),

– reduces the carbon food-print of the products because they don’t have to be transported long distances (less CO2 emissions),

– contributes to minimise the waste generation at home (no waste packaging and a lot less food wasted= less cost for the citizen and the municipality),

– because you buy the amount you need and not what is in predefined packaging in the end you end up spending (and buying) less than in a normal supermarket, even if you buy bio! An italian study shows how buying bulk can reduce the food bill in 64€ per month/family that is 775eur per year,

– well, leaving aside everything above: food tastes better and is more nutritive which at the end is what we all want!

This initiative was started by 6 idealists from Tuscany in August 2009 and it has already achieved economic stability and from all the products, the sales of the organic products are increasing by a 20%.

A lot of people questioned in the beginning the quality of natural biological refillable soaps and others. For this reason in the beginning the entrepreneurs gave to normal people (not the already convinced greeny) different soaps to try and in the end the customers decided to stay with the locally produced biological soap with the refillable packaging for pure practical and quality reasons.

It is important to mention that the customers of this shop are all kinds of normal people from Capannori and surroundings, a good example of how Zero Waste fits and improves everyday life. This has been recognised with the award of Tuscany Eco-efficiency.

Effecorta proves how zero waste and sustainability can get into people’s lifes whilst feeding them better, creating local jobs, reducing carbon food-print of products and phasing-out waste!


Phasing out single-use plastic-bags

Plastic bags, especially the single-use ones, are slowly leaving us. The good news is that this is happening, the bad news is that the process is too slow and they continue to harm our economies, health and environment.

Since their introduction in the US in 1957 they have expanded all over the world and now they can be found everywhere; oceans, rivers, mountains, fields, cities, homes… everywhere. The reason for their success was that they were cheap, light, higienic, resistant and the reason why they should be phased out is because it is not true that they are that cheap; it is just that their producers were not bearing the costs, people are. The costs of cleaning the cities, seas and fields, the costs of floods that plastic bags cause when they block the draining systems, the costs of fixing the machines blocked by plastic bags in the waste separation plants, the costs of loss of biodiversity because of death of animals by suffocation or contamination, the health costs of having more and more plastic in the food chain, the costs of tourism not wanting to come back to a country where there are more plastic bags than birds in the air… all these and many more are costs that the society is bearing and this is why the end of plastic bags is near. It doesn’t make neither economic nor environmental sense.

From the point of view of industrial design the pastic bags are a complete disaster; they are a product with a potentially high impact but whose life is very short and what’s worst is that they are absolutelly dispensable. We lived without plastic bags until some years ago and we will continue to live without plastic bags in the future.

The regulation on plastic bags around the world is increasing: in places such as China or South Africa there are outright bans on the thinnest, least durable plastic bags, in other places such as Taiwan they opted for taxes.

So, what are the experiences in Europe to reduce the consumption of plastic bags?

Ireland

The most succesful example in Europe is Ireland which introduced a “PlasTax” in 2002 –law 605/2001 – of 0,15€ per bag and managed in only 6 months to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags in a 90% and which created a revenue for the state of 19 million euros. The tax is applied in shops, supermarkets and other public places and excludes the reusable bags sold for more than 0,70€, the small bags containing bulk meat, fish, ice, fruits and vegetables and the bags in planes and ships. Infringement of the norm is sanctioned with fines starting from 1905€. The BBC reported that in three months after the ban was introduced, shops handed out 277 million plastic bags fewer than normal.

France


On the last January 1st entered into force a ban on the selling of non-biodegradable plastic-bags, the fine for violating the law is of 100€. According to a survey from WWF in 2005, 83% of the french were in favour of banning single-use plastic bags in supermarkets.

Denmark

As part of a larger packaging tax introduced in 1994, Denmark taxes plastic bags. The stated aim is to promote the use of reusable bags. However, the tax is paid by retailers when they purchase bags, rather than by shoppers, yielding less dramatic results than the Irish PlasTax, which charges consumers directly for each bag used. Still, consumption of paper and plastic bags has declined by 66%.

Spain

The region of Andalucia has  recently approved the first-ever in Spain tax (5 eurocents) on single-use plastic bags to be introduced in 2011. With a population of 8.3 million people Andalucia could raise 100 million euros next year, and twice as much when the tak will be doubled in 2012. Other autonomous regions in Spain such as Catalonia have targets to reduce single-use plastic bags but no measures -tax or ban- as to how to make it happen.


In other countries such as Germany, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands or Hungary the big supermarkets charge for the plastic bags.
Several initiatives and campaigns are taking place in different parts of Europe in order to push the authorities to act against plastic bags. There is no concrete EU policy regarding plastic bags.

On the 3rd of July 2010 took place the first International Bag Free Day, coordinated by Fundació Catalana de Prevenció de Residus i Consum and GAIA.

If you happen to know other campaigns or policies against plastic bags in Europe please let us know.

Phasing out plastic bags in Europe and replacing them with reusable bags is part of a Zero Waste Strategy in Europe; it reduces waste, it reduces costs, it promotes sustainability and is good for the environment and our landscapes.
To conclude we leave you with the video of the life of a plastic bag that is used to push the ban on plastic bags in California: