Italian Company Caught Illegally Dumping Plastic and other Municipal Waste in Tunisia

Réseau Tunisie Verte | Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) | Basel Action Network (BAN) | Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) | European Environmental Bureau (EEB) | Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) | Greenpeace MENA | Rethink Plastic alliance (RPa) | International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN)

For immediate release Brussels, March 3, 2021

International, European, Italian and Tunisian environmental groups have joined in demanding the immediate return of 282 containers full of mixed municipal waste that were illegally exported from Italy’s Campania region to the Port of Sousse in Tunisia between May and July 2020. According to the environmental organizations, the exports violated European Union law, Tunisian law as well as international waste trade treaties — the Basel Convention, the Bamako Convention and the Izmir Protocol of the Barcelona Convention. A short report shows how weaknesses in EU regulations may have contributed to this waste being exported for disposal under the cover of recycling. Under the terms of international and EU laws, Italy should have returned the shipments many months ago.  

Indeed, the Italian Administrative Region of Campania has already demanded that the exporting company Sviluppo Risorse Ambientali (SRA) return the waste at their own cost. SRA reportedly appealed this request to an administrative court in Naples and the court ruled it has no jurisdiction to counter the regional demand. Regardless, the responsibility to enforce the international rules lies ultimately with the Italian national government. 

“We fail to understand why Italy has not moved decisively to resolve this case and have these unwanted wastes returned,” said Ms. Semia Gharbi of Réseau Tunisie Verte, in Tunis. “We cannot wait indefinitely. We, therefore, call upon the European Commission to get involved and take the necessary actions to ensure that Italy fulfills its clear legal obligations. Tunisia is not Europe’s dumping ground!”

Tunisia is a Party to the Bamako Convention and the Izmir Protocol of the Barcelona Convention. Both of these agreements make it illegal for Tunisia to import wastes collected from households. And at the same time, Italy’s obligations under the Basel Convention and the European Waste Shipment Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006) require them to not approve of any exports to countries which have banned the import of such wastes. The shipments are therefore considered as illegal traffic under the Basel Convention and the EU Waste Shipment Regulation that implements that treaty in the European Union. 

Illegal traffic under these rules is a criminal act. Shipments that are illegal due to the fault of the exporter, as is the case in this instance, must be taken back by the exporting state within 30 days from the time the exporting state was made aware of the illegal shipment, or otherwise disposed of in an environmentally sound manner under the direction of the exporting country.

“Italy was made aware of the illegal shipment by the Tunisian government on 9 December 2020,” said Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network (BAN). “They are therefore nearly two months overdue in acting as required by law.  This is unacceptable.  We call upon the European Commission to take the necessary action to ensure compliance.”

“Italy ought to take responsibility for preventing and managing its own municipal waste, rather than exporting its problems to Tunisia”, said Sirine Rached of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). “Every additional day of delayed repatriation adds to this injustice”.

“This type of trade is immoral and environmentally destructive, it is not acceptable to import waste from Italy to Tunisia for landfilling. Landfilling of waste can generate toxic leaching and contribute to the degradation of human health and the environment,” added Mohammed Tazrout, campaigner for Greenpeace Middle-East and North Africa. 

“This is another striking example of a weakness in European legislation and enforcement causing ethical and environmental harm to others” said Pierre Condamine, waste policy officer at Zero Waste Europe. “The first clear and immediate step is for Italy to repatriate the shipment. The following step should be to fix and properly enforce, EU legislation to avoid doing any more harm.” 

ENDS


Read the Rethink Plastic alliance’s recommendations for the revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation to reduce harm caused from Waste Trade.

Bales of Italian waste exported to Tunisia by Sviluppo Risorse Ambientali, photographed during a visit by Tunisian legislators and journalists to the port of Sousse in December 2020 (Credits: Hamdi Chebaane).

Press contacts:

Jim Puckett, Executive Director, Basel Action Network, jpuckett@ban.org, +1 (206) 652-5555

Semia Gharbi, Réseau Tunisie Verte, semia.tgharbi@gmail.com, +216 98 997 350

Ana Oliveira, Zero Waste Europe, ana@zerowasteeurope.eu, +32 (0) 485 986 111

Major loopholes found in new EU plan to ban microplastic

25 February 2021, Brussels

EU plans to stop firms adding microplastic to almost all products have major loopholes that would keep pollution flooding into the environment for nearly a decade and reward unproven biodegradable plastics, environmental groups are warning.

The European Commission has pledged to ban microplastic from cosmetics, paints, detergents, some farm, medical and other products to prevent 500,000 tonnes polluting mostly rivers and seas. The legal process moved forward on Tuesday when a detailed proposal was presented by ECHA to the Commission. The legal restriction is expected to become law next year.

But following industry lobbying, the proposal has major loopholes, according to the Rethink Plastic alliance of environmental groups. Some sectors could get up to 8 years to drop microplastic while ‘biodegradable’ microplastic that has not been shown to degrade in the environment could escape the ban. The 500,000 tonnes target will be impossible to achieve unless the proposal is improved, they calculated.

“Microplastic pollution is everywhere: in our drinking water, our fields, filling the air in cities and even inside our bodies. The EU is right to build on its reputation of tackling plastic pollution with this new ban. But it must avoid being sidetracked by industry-sponsored loopholes. We want a quick and broad restriction with no green light for unproven biodegradable plastic.”

European Environmental Bureau chemicals policy officer Elise Vitali

“The EU promised to turn off the taps on microplastic pollution. Take sport pitches – it’s a gigantic source of microplastics pollution and it’s now up to the Commission to make sure that a full ban is in order. When it comes to cosmetics – another well-known source of this pollution – the Commission needs to reject the lenient proposal that would give the cosmetics industry a free pass to continue business as usual until 2028, even where alternatives are available.”

Hélène Duguy, chemicals lawyer at ClientEarth

Microplastic pollution is irreversible and causes considerable harm to the environment, with potential grave consequences for humans. EU scientific advisors have recognised that microplastics pose an unacceptable risk, which justifies a comprehensive ban.

The groups are urging the Commission to adopt a broad restriction that covers all microplastics in all sectors and uses.

The proposal is now in the hands of the Commission’s industry department, which has not always shown ambition on chemicals policy, the NGOs said. The Commission has until end of May 2021 to draft the restriction text, which will then go to a vote of member state experts. The European Parliament and Council of Ministers then have three months to object, but rarely do. 

Ends

For more details, click here. For details on ECHA’s proposal and further comment please get in touch using the supplied contacts. 

Contacts

Hélène Duguy, ClientEarth, hduguy@clientearth.org +33 (0) 6 68 74 72 32

Élise Vitali, European Environmental Bureau, elise.vitali@eeb.org + 32 456 164 678

Jack Hunter, European Environmental Bureau, jack.hunter@eeb.org +33 (0) 7 51 05 18 05  

Rethink Plastic, part of the Break Free From Plastic movement, is an alliance of leading European NGOs working towards ambitious EU policies on plastics. It brings together the Center for International Environmental Law, ClientEarth, Environmental Investigation Agency , European Environmental Bureau , European Environmental Citizen’s Organisation for Standardisation, Greenpeace, Seas At Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe, and Zero Waste Europe. Together they represent thousands of active groups, supporters and citizens in every EU Member State working towards a future free from plastic pollution. 

The European Parliament wants faster and further action on plastic pollution, so do we!

The Rethink Plastic alliance welcomes the European Parliament ENVI Committee’s strong call for ambitious measures to achieve a toxic-free circular economy and prevent pollution at source. Now, upcoming legislative initiatives, including the Sustainable Products Policy Initiative and the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, must maintain the same ambition in order to make the objectives of the Circular Economy Action Plan a reality. 

Today, the ENVI Committee (of the European Parliament) adopted their own report welcoming the Circular Economy Action Plan released in March 2020 by the European Commission, under the umbrella of the European Green Deal. In this report, the Parliament urges the European Commission to continue the implementation of the 2018 Plastics Strategy.

The European Parliament highlights that single-use products can be “a significant burden on the environment and on resources needing to be replaced by reusable alternatives. It calls for circular and non toxic materials and products to become the norm in the EU market while making sure they are accessible and affordable to all. It also highlights the need to support circular products and business models and the development of “product as a service“ initiatives and deposit-return schemes.

By putting single-use under the spotlight and calling for legislative measures and economic incentives to support reusable solutions, the European Parliament is sending a strong and welcome signal. Reduction, redesign and reuse are – and need to be – at the core of the transition not only to circular products and packaging but also to circular systems

commented Justine Maillot, Policy Coordinator at the Rethink Plastic alliance.

The European Parliament also stresses the need for urgent action to address microplastic pollution, a growing source of concern for both the environment and health. It calls on the European Commission to phase out intentionally added microplastics (e.g. in cosmetics, detergents, sanitary pads and nappies), adopt regulatory measures to reduce unintentional release of all microplastics at source (secondary microplastics and plastic pellets) as well as ecodesign requirements to prevent microplastics released by the degradation of larger plastic items. 

“The European Parliament has so far taken a bolder stance on microplastics than the Commission, calling for the adoption of a comprehensive and mandatory set of measures to reduce their release across sectors. To overcome the significant threat microplastics pose to both our health and environment, parallel regulatory efforts are urgently needed, including a wide restriction of intentionally added microplastics, EU legislation to make best practice handling of plastic pellets mandatory all along the value chain, and binding measures to target secondary microplastics sources such as plastic mulch, car tyres and synthetic fibers

added Justine Maillot, Policy Coordinator at the Rethink Plastic alliance.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The European Parliament’s report also highlights that : 

– the Commission should set material and consumption footprints targets to 2030 and 2050 to bring consumption within planetary boundaries by 2050;

– the circular economy can only be toxic free and that further action is needed to phase out hazardous chemicals in products and packaging and increased traceability, notably thanks to product passports and the SCIP database; 

– green public procurement has a big role to play in the transition, leading by example in making sustainable products and packaging (reusable, repaired etc) the default option in public procurement;

– green claims related to plastics must be fully justified with the use of harmonised calculation methods, such as the Product Environmental Footprint methodology

– bio-based and biodegradable plastics alone are not a solution to the environmental impacts of plastics; 

– the EU should continue to lead the work on international responses for addressing plastic pollution, including the work towards a global agreement on plastics. 

The European Parliament Plenary is expected to vote on the report in February.

Contacts 

Justine Maillot, Policy Coordinator at Rethink Plastic alliance, +32 (0) 487 347 215, justine@rethinkplasticalliance.eu 

Eilidh Robb, Communications Officer at Rethink Plastic alliance, +44 (0) 753 152 5899 news@rethinkplasticalliance.eu 

The Rethink Plastic alliance, part of the Break Free From Plastic movement, is an alliance of leading European NGOs working towards ambitious EU policies on plastics. It brings together the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), ClientEarth, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), European Environmental Bureau (EEB), European Environmental Citizen’s Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS), Greenpeace, Seas At Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe, and Zero Waste Europe. Together they represent thousands of active groups, supporters and citizens in every EU Member State working towards a future free from plastic pollution. 

New report exposes recent cases of plastic pellet pollution and calls for the EU to adopt measures

19 November 2020 Brussels

While this pollution is claimed to be under control all along the supply chain, Surfrider Foundation Europe, on behalf of the Rethink Plastic alliance and other leading NGOs, today prove that this is not the reality. In their latest report: “Plastic giants polluting through the backdoor” they highlight 5 recent cases of pellet (nurdle) leakage across Europe. As part of the EU’s commitments under the new Circular Economy Action Plan, and the Commissions commitments to come up with a zero-pollution strategy next year, they are calling on the European Commission to adopt ambitious legal measures to tackle pellet pollution once and for all.

To date, pellet pollution has not been regulated by EU decision makers, while the voluntary industry initiative (Operation Clean Sweep) has proven to be unable to stop the pollution in nearly 30 years of volunteer action. Yet, pellet pollution is the second most significant primary source of microplastic pollution in our Ocean.

Through the presentation of five case studies across Europe, this report exposes the consequences of plastic production related pollution on the environment and on local communities, detailing the reactions of citizens and local associations to the pollution, and the responses of the companies responsible. These case studies finally allow the alliance to draw a series of conclusions which all plead for urgent, legal measures to be adopted.

“What the case studies show is that pellet pollution continues to be out of control today, despite repeated declarations from the plastics giants that everything is going in the right direction. Plastic pollution continues to occur on a large scale with dramatic impacts on nature and our Ocean. Meanwhile, local communities are left to deal with the pollution. It’s time for the EU to adopt legal measures to hold companies accountable”, explains Gaëlle Haut, EU affairs officer at Surfrider Europe.

Up to 160 000 tonnes of nurdles are lost every year in Europe. Plastic pellets, also called nurdles or mermaid tears, are a raw material used in the manufacturing of plastic items. They are the virgin plastic that is melted and molded into plastic items. Pellets end up in nature when handled irresponsibly by plastic producers, transporters, recyclers or converters.

Pellets accumulate in the sea, in surface waters and rivers and near industrial sites or ports. Pollution has been going on for decades. Plastic pellets have many impacts on marine ecosystems. They cause severe damage to marine life and threaten terrestrial animals; because of their colour and shape, they are often mistaken for food by marine animals and birds, and, once ingested, they get stuck in the animal’s stomach, causing starvation and death.

Once released into the environment, pellets, which already contain harmful additives, also attract and absorb toxic particles and bacteria which are present in the water. This harmful cocktail can then enter the food chain, and reach our bodies, through the fish and seafood we eat.

Pellet pollution also impacts recreational activities (such as water sports), deteriorates habitats and affects tourist activities. In almost all cases of pollution, local communities are left to deal with the pollution, without any responsibility being established.

Clearer responsibility and accountability are needed to prevent pellet pollution. Surfrider Foundation Europe and its partners from the Rethink Plastic alliance call on the European Commission to adopt measures to prevent plastic pellets from polluting our Ocean and compel companies to act. Pellet pollution adds to the estimated 12 million tonnes of plastics that end up in the Ocean every year. With plastic production projected to double by 2035 and to almost quadruple by 2050, it is urgent that the plastic production and transformation chain’s contribution to the plastic crisis is recognised and addressed.

ENDS

Contact: Gaëlle Haut, EU affairs officer, Surfrider Foundation Europe, + 32 (0)4 87/16 94 53  & ghaut@surfrider.eu

Plastic giants polluting through the backdoor : the case for a regulatory supply-chain approach to pellet pollution, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Rethink Plastic alliance, November 2020: https://rethinkplasticalliance.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/plastic_giants_polluting_through_the_backdoor.pdf

About the Rethink Plastic alliance 

Rethink Plastic, part of the Break Free From Plastic movement, is an alliance of leading European NGOs working towards ambitious EU policies on plastics. It brings together the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), ClientEarth, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), European Environmental Bureau (EEB), European Environmental Citizen’s Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS), Greenpeace , Seas At Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe, and Zero Waste Europe. Together they represent thousands of active groups, supporters and citizens in every EU Member State working towards a future free from plastic pollution.

About Surfrider Foundation Europe
Surfrider Foundation Europe is a European not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the protection and enhancement of Europe’s lakes, rivers, ocean, waves and the coastline. It currently has over 13,000 members and is active across 12 countries through its volunteer-run branches. For 30 years, Surfrider Foundation Europe has been taking action as a recognized authority in 3 areas of expertise: marine litter, water quality and health, coastal management and climate change. More info: www.surfrider.eu

Strengthen microplastics ban, NGOs urge EU

16 November 2020 Brussels

In a new report, ClientEarth, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the Rethink Plastic Alliance, urge the European Commission and Member States to severely restrict the intentional use of microplastics, beyond what is currently proposed by the European Chemical Agency (ECHA).

The call comes as ECHA finalises its recommendations for a ban on microplastics that are intentionally used, in all sectors including, for example, cosmetics, detergents, paints, or sport pitches. The ban could drastically reduce the pollution caused by these sectors.

Environmental experts warn that while the current version rightly gauges the harmfulness of microplastics, it is too soft on key sources of microplastic pollution, which could jeopardise the overall effectiveness of the final restriction.

ClientEarth lawyer Hélène Duguy said: “EU institutions promised to crack down on microplastic pollution but the latest proposal doesn’t cut it. “The ball is in the European Commission and EU countries’ court now and it’s crucial that they show ambition. With the loopholes we’re looking at, an ever increasing volume of microplastics will keep on flooding into the environment. Once there, they persist and accumulate – hence the need to turn off the tap as fully and quickly as possible.” 

The report specifically points to the fact that:

  • Not all intentionally used microplastics are targeted. Allegedly biodegradable microplastics and soluble polymers are for example exempt, which might lead companies to use those instead, failing to actually reduce microplastic pollution.
  • Insufficient requirements on major sources of microplastic pollution. The current proposal does not adequately restrict microplastics contained in sport pitches (even if alternatives exist) and similarly, the requirements for reporting on pellet loss should be strengthened. 
  • Exemptions that lack sound justification. For example, the latest version of the proposal would allow microplastics to be used in continence pads, menstrual pads and nappies, despite these being in direct contact with the human body and a known source of marine pollution.
  • Unjustified delays in implementing the ban. For example, the ban on microplastics for leave-on cosmetics would only enter into force in 2028, while alternatives already exist.

Beyond environmental considerations, experts argue that a strong restriction would boost innovation in the market for microplastic-free alternatives and spare public authorities from the cost of cleaning microplastics, notably in water.

Duguy added: “By standing firm on the ban, the EU would show that it is truly committed to its promises under the European Green Deal and the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability.”

Elise Vitali, Policy officer on Chemicals for the EEB, said: “Every week, a new study opens our eyes further to the dangers of plastic pollution. In recent years the EU has led the world in confronting the problem; banning many throw-away products and announcing the microplastic crackdown. But industry holds a lot of sway in Brussels and lobbyists have injected some really troubling loopholes that would allow the polluting business-as-usual to keep on. Leaders need to close the highly risky backdoors to the microplastics restriction.”

Gaëlle Haut, EU affairs project manager at Surfrider Foundation Europe, said: “The Ocean would be home to as many as 125 trillion microplastic particles. Building a Healthier Planet for Healthier People as the European Commission has committed to with its Zero Pollution ambition starts with a ban, coming into effect as soon as possible on all intentionally added microplastics.”

Tom Gammage, Ocean Campaigner at EIA, said: “Microplastics represent an appalling and insidious form of pollution, the impacts of which we are only just beginning to understand. This restriction is a step in the right direction, yet currently it falls short on the ambitious action required to lead the world in decisively tackling this growing issue.”

Frédérique Mongodin, senior marine litter policy officer with SEAS AT RISK, said: “Debates about the multiple impacts of microplastics have gone on for too long, at a time when the anticipated growth of global plastic consumption is out of control and requires short term action. Discussing long transitional periods for primary microplastics hardly makes sense when sustainable alternatives already exist for most of them. When it comes to plastic pellets, manufacturing and handling companies need to take responsibility for the current lack of information, training and transparency available to professional users, when targeted information on the environmental costs of pellet loss could keep that chronic pollution under control.” 

ENDS

Read the position paper and summary two-pager

Notes to editors

Between 75,000 and 300,000 tonnes of microplastics are released into the environment each year in the EU alone. Scientists are warning that the situation is out of control.

Microplastics can be found almost everywhere: on mountains, in the ocean, in the Arctic sea ice and in human bodies.

Globally, 2,249 species of plant, animal and microbe are known to interact with micro- and nano-plastics. These tiny synthetic polymers are harmful to biodiversity as they resist biodegradation – fragmenting in nature – causing including by blocking the digestive tracts of aquatic creatures, turtles and birds. Extensive scientific evidence also shows that microplastics facilitate the bioaccumulation of pollutants in animals and plants, including those destined for human consumption. Most scientists agree that they are likely to be harmful to human health.

In 2019, upon request from the European Commission, ECHA submitted a proposal for restricting the use of intentionally added microplastic particles to consumer or professional products of any kind, in line with the EU Plastics Strategy (2018). The proposal would reduce intentionally added microplastic pollution by nearly 40,000 tonnes after 2030.

The scientific assessment of the restriction proposal by ECHA committees will be finalised and made public in December, after which the European Commission will have three months to draft a proposal that the Member States will vote on.


Plastic pollution: time to fightback plastic fake outs

For immediate release: Biarritz (France), July 22nd 2020

As part of its “Break the plastic wave” campaign, and in collaboration with the Rethink Plastic alliance, Surfrider Foundation Europe releases today and over the next two weeks, new infographics developed together with the media Qu’est ce qu’on fait on false solutions to plastic pollution. These infographics illustrate the problems posed by three initiatives with alarming data and highlight instead true ideas for action.  

“The only solution to plastic pollution is to reduce plastic production and consumption at source. For it to happen, we need to fight plastic fakes out that are diverting us all away from cutting plastic”

Says Diane Beaumenay, one of the two coordinators of the ‘Break the Plastic Wave’ campaign at Surfrider Foundation Europe.

9.2 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s and more than half have been produced since 2000. With an average of 8 million tons of plastic reaching the ocean every year (1), there is no longer any doubt today about the plastic crisis we’re facing and the urgency to act.  

The solutions to stop the flood of plastics are known and within reach but are often overshadowed by initiatives presented as silver bullets while their impacts are limited and sometimes even counterproductive. They create confusion at the expense of the environment and of citizens’ will to buy and consume more responsibly. False solutions, yet, contribute to plastic pollution as they perpetuate the belief we can continue producing again and again more plastics. They contribute to rampant greenwashing around the plastic pollution issue so for companies not to stop their plastic production, and mask the reality that this plastic should not be there in the first place. 

The infographics shed light on 3 initiatives – recycling, bioplastics and cleaning-up the ocean – that are, to varying degrees, ineffective in the face of the scale of plastic pollution. For some, claims they echo are not accurate, in other cases the ‘solutions’ they bring are inexistent, increase the issue, and are not proportionate to the problems: 

  • Recycling alone will never be able to take care of all the plastics we produce and throw away. Of the 29 million tonnes of plastic waste collected annually in the European Union, we have only been able to recycle one third (2).  

 

  • Bio-based and biodegradable plastics only have bio as a prefix and cause severe damage to the environment. Plastics which are bio-based are not fully oil-free while the biomass used to produce them are mostly dependent on intensive farming, which is particularly harmful to the environment. On the other side, biodegradable plastics can only degrade within a reasonable timeframe under very specific conditions (e.g. industrial composting). In nature or the ocean, they have major impacts on animals and habitat.  

 

  • Cleaning: it is unrealistic to think that we will be able to clean the ocean from all the plastics dumped into it over the last 60 years.  In addition to not solving the problem at the source, there is no technology today that can collect the plastic from the ocean without causing damage to the ocean fauna and flora. Only 1% of this plastic waste would float, the rest would be beneath the surface. In such circumstances, it’s hard to think we can do a clean sweep.  

We can all contribute to solving the plastic crisis: industries by rethinking their products and systems, decision-makers by adopting measures supporting real solutions and citizens by changing their consumption patterns and calling on companies and decision-makers to drive change.

ENDS

Links to the infographics prepared with Qu’est ce qu’on fait:

Infographics on plastic fake out #1 

Infographics on plastic fake out #2

Infographics on plastic fake out #3

Notes

  1. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean, Jambeck et al., Science, 2015: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768/tab-pdf 
  2. Plastics The Facts 2018, Plastics Europe: https://www.plasticseurope.org/application/files/6315/4510/9658/Plastics_the_facts_2018_AF_web.pdf 

Press Contacts

Fella Boulazreg, Media contact point, Surfrider Foundation Europe, presse@surfrider.eu +33 (0)7 67 18 29 71 / + 33 (0) 5 59 23 23 47

#BreakFreeFromPlastic urges EU countries to take rapid action to effectively transpose the single-use plastics Directive

Brussels 16th July 2020, 9AM

The single-use plastics (SUP) Directive, adopted in 2019, requires EU Member States to adopt a number of measures to reduce the use of, and pollution from, single-use plastics most commonly found in the environment. Measures include bans on certain SUPs, a reduction in consumption, extended producer responsibility schemes, labeling requirements, and a 90% separate collection target for plastic bottles. 

EU countries have until July 2021 to transpose the EU Directive into their national laws and adopt the measures needed for successful implementation of the Directive. Members of the Break Free From Plastic movement have taken stock of the progress made across Europe, midway through the transposition period. This assessment of the current situation in 19 countries shows that only a few countries have already adopted measures to transpose the Directive or are about to do so. In most countries, the transposition process has been delayed or has only just started

France currently appears to be the furthest advanced on the transposition of the SUP Directive thanks to the adoption of a law in February 2020 that actually goes further than the EU Directive; it now must be implemented in order for it to have concrete positive effects. Other countries, such as Austria, Denmark, and Portugal have also taken steps and made progress in the transposition of the Directive, yet key legal measures still have to be finalised and the ambition needs to be confirmed. Unfortunately, many countries are still lagging behind, including Slovenia where processes have been significantly delayed, as well as Bulgaria and Croatia where discussions have not even begun. 

Despite numerous public announcements on the need to fight plastic pollution, many European countries have not yet walked the talk. It is high time governments stop dithering and promptly adopt far-reaching measures that incentivise products, packaging and business models based on waste prevention and reuse, allowing a move away from single-use plastics once and for all. The Break Free From Plastic movement will continue to monitor and engage on the transposition and implementation of the SUP Directive and call out countries lagging behind”.

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic Europe and the Rethink Plastic alliance commented.

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have caused slowdown in the transposition of the SUP Directive, as in other files, it cannot be a reason for further delay. Solving the plastic crisis cannot wait any longer, and the ambitious implementation of the SUP Directive across Europe can largely contribute to ending pollution from single-use plastics for good. 

See the detailed Member State assessment and grading here

ENDS 

See Seas At Risk’s assessment for more details on some countries (France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain). 

Directive on the impacts of certain plastic products on the environment available here.

French law on Circular Economy available here.  

Press contacts 

Estelle Eonnet, Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic Europe, +33 6 13 13 65 27, estelle@breakfreefromplastic.org

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Coordinator, Break Free From Plastic Europe and Rethink Plastic alliance, +32 (4) 78 71 26 33, delphine@rethinkplasticalliance.eu

EU promotes greater global responsibility on plastic waste – but not for internal market!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brussels, 6th July 2020

In April of last year, the European Union joined Norway in co-sponsoring amendments to the world’s only waste treaty to establish new trade controls on the dirtiest and most unrecyclable plastic wastes. These amendments were passed in response to countless human rights abuses, and environmental pollution caused by unregulated plastic waste dumping. Such problematic plastic wastes now will require prior consent by importing nations, and are listed under Annex II of the Basel Convention as “wastes requiring special consideration.”

However, last week, the European Commission made it official in their publication of the proposed Delegated Regulation (1) that the EU does not intend to fully apply these new trade controls themselves between their own member states. This would leave the door wide open for EU waste traders to shunt difficult-to-recycle plastics to substandard operations in poorer EU communities, as well as plastic waste to “waste-to-energy” incinerators in other EU countries. Incinerating plastic waste undermines recycling, and has dire consequences for the climate, for the environment, and for a toxic-free and just circular economy.

Global and European environmental groups* have lined up to oppose this move, noting that the Basel Convention allows no reservations or exceptions to its obligations and definitions (2). They argue that this is a departure from the EU Waste Shipment Regulation’s current faithful inclusion of Basel Annex II wastes, and requirement of prior notification and consent for their trade within the EU. 

“The only rationale for promoting a double standard of this kind is if your track record on responsible trade in waste and its subsequent recycling is already superlative and you can show that you have an equivalent level of control to that required by the global rules. But the evidence shows that it is not the case at all.”

said David Azoulay, senior attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law.

Citing recent reports of plastic waste dumping and burning in Poland, Italy and Romania, the environmental groups also noted that the exception is unjustified given the persistent trend of wastes moving across the continent to victimize weaker communities and member states. 

The draft regulation would allow some plastic wastes to instead be freely traded in the EU market without the newly agreed controls. These plastics have recently been regulated under the Basel Convention’s Annex II due to the difficulty in recycling them, and the risks they pose to human health and the environment particularly when they are burnt. They include a wide set of mixed plastic wastes, PVC and PTFE (Teflon) wastes, as well as all manner of plastic waste not destined for mechanical recycling. 

“Our members include recyclers and communities who live by so-called “waste-to-energy” incinerators, and they know just how much burning plastic waste hurts the recycling economy, creates toxic pollution and harms the climate. We cannot accept a free pass for that to keep happening in the EU”

said Sirine Rached for Zero Waste Europe and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

Hard-to-recycle and contaminated plastics are likely to end up dumped in the open environment or burnt, causing toxic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The green groups claim that the proposal flies in the face of the vows recently made in the European Green Deal including the Circular Economy Action Plan, where the EU committed to carbon neutrality and to show leadership in action on plastic waste. 

“How does bending current EU rules and creating double standards for the EU demonstrate any kind of global leadership? How is the rest of the world going to take the EU seriously when they preach boldly on the global stage and then run back home to coddle their waste and plastics industries?”

asked Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network (BAN), a global toxic trade watchdog organization.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network, jpuckett@ban.org, +1 (206) 354-0391

David Azoulay, CIEL, dazoulay@ciel.org, +41 787 578 756

Tim Grabiel, EIA, TimGrabiel@eia-international.org, +33 6 32 76 77 04

Sirine Rached, Zero Waste Europe & GAIA, sirine@no-burn.org, +33 6 76 90 02 80

Sara Brosché, International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), sarabrosche@ipen.org, +46 31 799 5900

References:

(1) Ref. Ares(2020)3286388 – 24/06/2020

(2)  For the very first time, the European Union has notified the Secretariat of the Basel Convention that it claims the EU Waste Shipment Regulation as an Article 11 agreement. Such agreements are allowed to run legally in parallel with the Convention so long as they are no less environmentally sound. However, refusing to control dirty and mixed plastics that the Basel Convention now controls is clearly less environmentally sound – raising questions about the legality of the EU proposal. 

Notes:

The EU proposed Delegated Act is designed to provide a legislative response to the recent amendments passed in May of last year at the Basel Convention’s 14th Conference of Parties. Those amendments which the EU worked for but is now refusing to implement within its own borders are meant to come into force on January 1, 2021.

*The organisations which strongly believe that the EU member states should apply the new Basel Convention plastic waste amendments like every other party to the Basel Convention include:

International Plastic Bag Free Day: the fight against plastic bag pollution at risk with European countries granting too many exemptions

For immediate release: Brussels, 3rd July 2020

A new report published today by Surfrider Foundation Europe on behalf of the Rethink Plastic alliance called Make it Right. Time for Europe to act against plastic bag pollution, reveals that while all EU countries have now transposed the EU Directive on plastic bags into their national laws, only some have taken ambitious action to cut plastic bag pollution at source.

The assessment, based on key contributions from the members of the Break Free From Plastic movement in Europe, shows that most countries continue to authorise the use of single-use plastic bags by granting many exemptions, some clearly infringing the Directive: single use biodegradable plastic bags (e.g. Italy, Austria, Malta), single-use biobased plastic bags (e.g. Brussels region in Belgium), bags sold in open markets (e.g. Greece, very lightweight plastic bags (in the majority of Member States) and even bags with no handle (e.g. Romania).

Plastic bags are one of too many major sources of pollution in our ocean. More than 100 billion bags were used in Europe alone in 2010. Together with other single-use plastic items, they are responsible for dramatic impacts on marine life and habitats, global economies and societies along the full plastic life cycle, and they carry major risks to our health. Symbols of our disposable society, plastic bags triggered action on a large number of other single-use items all around the world. 

The plastic pollution crisis is immense, and the legislation that already exists can only contribute to reducing pollution if implemented and enforced on the ground. 

“Too many EU countries have chosen low-ambition measures or allowed for many single-use plastic bags to continue to be used. With the objective of reducing consumption of plastic bags by half at the end of 2019, citizens are waiting for new measures to be adopted by July 2021 to further limit disposable plastics. It’s time to make things right and ensure positive action to tackle plastic pollution”.

Said Gaëlle Haut, European Affairs Officer at Surfrider Foundation Europe, on behalf of the Rethink Plastic alliance

This 11th International Plastic Bag Free Day is being celebrated a year and a half ahead of the Commission’s deadline to present results on the effectiveness of measures at Union level to address plastic bag pollution. At this crossroads, assessment results appear better than in 2018 but some already-expressed concerns still remain.

The Plastic Bag Directive has sadly left the door open for some private players to ask national governments for derogations for their products – in particular biodegradable bags. This has allowed for the continued use of some single-use plastic bags, irrespective of the many impacts they have on the environment and ocean. These derogations are putting attempts to tackle plastic pollution at risk and could possibly worsen necessary and urgent efforts to reduce marine litter and curb plastic use. 

The Rethink Plastic alliance now calls on Member States to adopt ambitious measures to reduce the consumption of all single-use plastic bags in their territory and ensure proper enforcement of the measures adopted

Member States are asked to remove exemptions on biodegradable and bio-based plastic bags, in line with the Single Use Plastic Directive and adopt measures applying to all bags.

***

ENDS

NOTES:

Press Contacts:

Agnese Marcon, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic alliance news@rethinkplasticalliance.eu +32 (0) 456 078 038

Gaëlle Haut, EU affairs officer, Surfrider Foundation Europe ghaut@surfrider.eu +32 (4) 87 16 94 53