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Go for reusables in July

Purchase reusable in July.

Like every year since 2011, Plastic Free July invites you to accept the challenge and refuse to use single-use plastic. This is a global initiative, and you can express your support by participating in different activities. Zero Waste Europe encourages you to participate and set an example for others.

We will also celebrate International Day without Plastic Bags on July 3rd. Because what better represents the current plastic crisis than the ubiquitous disposable plastic bags? It was even found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench 10.926 m below the water surface.

A recent landmark legislation paved the way

This spring, the European Union approved a new groundbreaking legislation to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic products across Europe and at the same time solve the pollution problem of these products (referred to in this article as the SUP of the Single-use Plastics Directive). These new rules on the consumption, design and management of single-use plastics include:

European bans on disposable plastic tableware, plates, straws, cotton swab sticks, plastic balloon sticks, and mobile food containers and expanded polystyrene beverage cups will take effect from July 2021. To the bottles by 2024, and to collect 90% of the plastic bottles separately by 2029. Many manufacturers of single-use plastics (such as packaging and wrapping paper, plastic bags, bottles and cups) are obliged to bear the waste costs for the collection and disposal of these products and the costs associated with clean-up (through the so-called EPR-Extended Producer Responsibility) .

In other words, companies such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé (the three most notorious polluters identified in a recent brand audit) will have to pay for waste management and bottle cleaning.

Importantly, the new rules apply to all single-use plastics listed in the legislation, whether they are made from fossil fuels (traditional plastics) or plants (bio-based plastics), and whether they are compostable or not. This detailed analysis provides additional measures related to the labeling and awareness of reusable alternatives.

Bio-based plastics and so-called "biodegradable" plastics are not the solution to plastic pollution. The sustainable solution lies in reduction and reuse.

How does our government make it a reality?

These new ambitious goals will only help solve the single-use plastic problem, provided that European countries take a proactive approach to effectively implement these goals. EU legislation leaves room for maneuver for countries that take measures to achieve the above goals.

We can think of it as flexibility, but it also creates the risk of countries not taking concrete steps to achieve established goals.

This is why "Zero Waste Europe" encourages countries to ban the use of mobile food containers and cups, or at least adopt high emission reduction targets by 2025. "Zero Waste Europe" also encourages governments to develop deposit return plans for bottles to ensure their collection and reuse. This also applies to other plastic products, such as cups and takeaway food containers.

Establishing strong producer responsibility is also the key to ensuring that producers bear the costs associated with the management and cleaning of their plastics. The government can incentivize companies to redesign their products and delivery systems by ensuring that producers of non-recyclable or difficult-to-recycle products make more contributions. For example, this can be achieved through a bonus system also known as ecological regulation.

Next steps

Before the official regulations come into effect, you can reduce pollution in many ways. First switch to reusable items (bags, bottles, etc.)

And refuse to use disposable plastics (straws, cutlery, etc.). Using refillable bottles and canvas bags will not affect your lifestyle or make it more difficult. It may look like a drop of water in the (plastic) ocean, but if we do it together, it will really make a difference!

Plastic-free July is a great opportunity to try and help the environment where we are all involved! Follow #breakfreefromplastic

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