Politicians from Europe’s cities and regions have called for new EU measures to prohibit the dumping of plastic waste in landfill and consider banning free plastic bags.
The EU’s Committee of the Regions (CoR) stressed that there must be a shift in attitude towards plastic which must be considered not as waste, but as an invaluable resource and a major provider of employment and innovation.
The CoR also warned that EU environmental legislation must be better enforced if its objectives were to be achieved.
Cllr Gillham – “Banning the dumping of plastic waste in landfill in Europe is a logical and practical step to demonstrate that we are taking our responsibility seriously in ensuring that we make the most of our precious resources”
The appeal came during a debate on plastic waste where CoR members unanimously approved an opinion on Green Paper on a European strategy on plastic waste in the environment, penned by UK’s Linda Gillham (UK/EA).
The report, which sets out clear guidelines, was in response to the European Commission’s review on how to manage waste, including plastic waste, with new targets expected to be published in 2014.
During the discussions CoRs’ members spoke of the impact plastic waste can have on the environment and the considerable harm it causes especially to the world’s marine life. With recent reports estimating that 25Mt of plastic was produced in the European Union alone, of which nearly 50 percent was sent to landfill, the Committee stressed the urgency to introduce stringent measures to deal with this growing problem.
Cllr Gillham, from Member of Runnymede Borough Council, said: “Most of our citizens have already embraced the recycling message and expect us to do the best with the waste and recycle or re-use it. Banning the dumping of plastic waste in landfill in Europe is a logical and practical step to demonstrate that we are taking our responsibility seriously in ensuring that we make the most of our precious resources”.
Cllr Gillham explained that these proposals were to also encourage a change in attitudes towards plastic waste, “Plastic bags and containers are seen as a waste product – we must change minds and encourage schemes such as ‘bags for life’. Plastic is not rubbish, it is a complex material and a valuable resource”.
“Not Doing Enough”
As well as providing re-use incentives, the EU should consider banning the distribution of free plastic bags to citizens, according to the Committee, which said it would also like to see new targets encourage recycling and backs the European Parliament’s proposed ban of all recyclable and bio-waste being sent to landfill by 2020. It warns that safeguards should, however, be put in place to avoid the exporting of plastic waste outside of the Union.
The Committee criticises the Commission for not doing enough to enforce EU environmental legislation stressing that existing targets must be better imposed.
To maximise resources the EU must also take steps to enable local authorities across neighbouring countries to share recycling facilities. Furthermore, to reduce the burden on local authorities, the responsibility to manage plastic waste should be the responsibility of producers.
The introduction of an EU-wide labelling system could also ensure consumers are clear about the true biodegradability of plastic products. Finally, it calls for an international agreement to ban plastic micro beads for cosmetic use in facial scrubs, toothpaste and other personal products to prevent them from entering the food chain.