The plastic problem of the oceans is one of our modern time´s environmental crisis, together with climate change and the disappearing of biodiversity. Every year to the oceans end up estimated amount of plastic, about 8-13 millions tons. Different kinds of solutions are looked for this problem and one of them is EU´s single-use plastics ban, which came into effect 3.7.2021. Is this change enough, or do we need others alongside it?
The marine litter problem has been investigated for years, and new reports appear regularly. There is a valid reason for the recent ban – single-use plastics are one the biggest waste fractions on shores and water systems. Plastic cutlery, straws and cotton buds can be found everywhere.
The ban, which came into effect on July, seeks to eliminate part of the marine litter problems. In the future it is not allowed to sell anymore plastic cutlery, plates or straws, stir sticks, cotton buds or sticks of the balloons. Also beverage packaging, mugs and ready-to-eat food packaging made of foam polystyrene as well as products made of oxo-degradable plastic are on the ban list.
In practice the ban will be seen in the shops so that there will be available alternative products made of bamboo or wood. Already available products will be sold out. In addition to this ban EU has also set a 50 % recycling target for plastics by 2025. So a functioning market for recycled plastics should be built within four years, preferably located in EU.
What other changes are needed?
A big change can not be done only with one law, but the direction is right. Several agreements to reduce plastic have been done already earlier, but the problem of them is voluntary. EU´s decision is obligatory and so more efficient. It is good to remember while talking about marine litter that the most polluting 12 companies are responsible for 48 % of the marine litter found on shores and waters. These companies include, for example Coca Cola, Walkers, McDonalds, Cadbury, Tesco, Lucozade, Costa Coffee, Mars Wrigley ja Haribo. Corporate responsibility is demanded from these companies.
Future solutions will also surely be the globalization of the bottle deposit system and extended producer responsibility. Then the biggest companies has to take care and pay for the recycling of their products. Well-functioning recycling is only a part of the solution, because we have to keep in mind the reduction of plastic products and the change of the whole disposable culture. In the end the water systems has to be cleaned from the plastic, which has already ended up there and this work can be well done with the vessels of Clewat. They are also able to collect micro plasticts, at the same time with bigger pieces of plastic.
In the researches of marine litter, one essential waste fraction is cigarette butts. Although they are small, the disadvantages of them are big – and butts also contain plastic. Sometimes the disadvantages of them are reminded in some countries. A text may be painted next to the sewer: “ The sea starts here”. So the litter, which end up to the sewer, will be finally found on the sea.
The single-use plastics ban of EU is therefore a promising start to solve the problem of marine litter. Also in other places of the world people are working to remove plastic debris and their solutions will be introduced in the next story!
Picture and article: Katja Vaulio