Water Diplomacy

#BeatPlasticPollution beyond #PlasticBagFreeDay - EU rules on single-use plastics

04/07/2018 - 15:44
News stories

The sales are on and after a day's successful shopping spree you return home with bags full of bargains. Now what happens to the plastic bags and wrappers thoughtlessly tossed aside? Out in the ocean floating islands of plastic waste reach hundreds of miles, and plastic bags play heavily among them… Plastics are even reaching people's lungs and dinner tables, with micro-plastics in the air, water and food having an unknown impact on their health and playing havoc with marine life. Tackling the plastics problem is a must.

Recently the European Commission proposed new EU rules to reduce marine litter, targeting the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. Where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market.

Yesterday's International Plastic Bag Free Day provided a good opportunity to raise awareness on the environmental impact and hazards of single-use plastics by spreading the word that a plastic bag free world is possible and that more sustainable alternatives to single use plastic bags are available.

Meanwhile, in the Arctic Region, the Circular Ocean EU-funded Interreg project is testing new opportunities for reusing old fishing nets, including a material to remove pollutants from water. In the Baltic Sea Region, the flagship project BLASTIC (Plastic waste pathways into the sea) aims at reducing plastic waste and thereby hazardous substances inflow into the Baltic Sea by mapping potential litter sources in urban areas and monitoring litter levels in the aquatic environment. Both projects are supported by the European Regional Development Fund

In northeast Atlantic big EU funded (Interreg) projects like CleanAtlantic and OceanWise, support the implementation of the OSPAR Regional Action Plan against marine litter. Similarly many Interreg projects, such as Act4Litter and Plastic Busters, support the implementation of the Regional Action Plan against marine litter of the Barcelona Convention and other activities against litter in the Mediterranean.  The EMBLAS project (Neighbourhood policy) has also contributed substantially to mapping marine litter in the Black Sea. Furthermore, the GoJelly and CLAIM projects, under H2020, started in 2018 and include a call for cleaning of marine litter and restoring the ecosystem.

The Our Ocean Conference in Malta last year co-hosted by High Representative Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Karmenu Vella, generated an unprecedented level of ambition:

  • 437 tangible and measurable commitments
  • EUR 7.2 billion in financial pledges
  • 2.5 million square kilometres of additional Marine Protected Areas

In the run-up to the conference, EU staff around the world, together with their families, took part in beach clean-ups to raise awareness about marine litter. Earlier this year EU staff also joined Commissioner Vella in a beach clean on the Belgian coast during which he explained the goals of the recently adopted plastics strategy.   

The EU looks forward to the next edition of Our Ocean Conference in Bali, on 29-30 October, and will contribute to its success, by delivering on its promises and tabling new commitments.


Photo: AFP Forum