The Balearic islands lead the way to break free from plastic
By Roberta Arbinolo
While the European Parliament is preparing to rubberstamp the EU directive to slash single-use plastics, the Balearic islands haven’t been sitting on their hands and are actually one step ahead: their pioneer new law on Waste and Polluted Soil is a major achievement in the fight against plastic pollution, and sets the example in the Mediterranean and beyond.
The new law, approved by the Balearic Parliament end of January, introduces concrete measures and targets for waste reduction, with a particular attention to single-use plastic products. Notably, the distribution of single use bags, cutlery, plates, straws, cotton bud and sweets sticks will be prohibited across the islands, and so will be the sale of products containing microplastics or nanoplastics, and of non-rechargeable and non-reusable lighters, shavers, printer toners and cartridges.
According to Rosa Garcia, Director of Zero Waste Europe’s and Break Free From Plastic’s member Rezero, “the Balearic Law represents a major step towards the abandonment of the use and throw-away culture which the current production model has brought us over the last decades.”
As Rezero rightly points out, there is no other law at the international level which commits so firmly to waste prevention and to finish with the indiscriminate proliferation of single-use products.
On top of the bans, the new law strengthens Extended Producer Responsibility schemes, by requiring more transparency about the products placed on the market, their waste generation and management, and holding packaging producers responsible to fully cover waste collection and management costs. It also creates a framework for deposit return systems for specific products, such as beverage containers, to favour the recuperation of high quality materials and prevent leakages into the environment.
Besides, the law shows a remarkable commitment to boost reuse. For example, reusable packaging is incentivised through the installation of water fountains and the inclusion of waste prevention criteria in public procurement. Moreover, a plan to promote reusable containers developed by Rezero for the Balearic Government may allow to prevent more than 30,000 tones of packaging waste.
Thanks to these forward-looking provisions, the Balearic law goes beyond what required by the EU directive to reduce single-use plastics, setting the example for successful implementation at the national and local level. As a matter of fact, Majorca is proving that regions and countries all across Europe can raise the ambition for single-use plastic prevention, and engage in a race to the top towards a future free from plastic pollution.