The Plastic Bag Free Campaign in Ukraine: From a local initiative to a national campaign
In the west of Ukraine, there is a city of Lviv. In 2016, Lviv’s waste management system was so bad that it caused a fire in the local landfill. After the accident, local authorities realized that things needed to be changed. This is when Lviv Zero Waste introduced a strategy based on waste prevention and responsible consumption practices. Zero Waste Lviv is one of the founders and active members of the Ukrainian Zero Waste Alliance, which recently became a member of Europe’s Zero Waste and Freedom from Plastics.
In November 2018, as a result of a strategy adopted, the Lviv City Council passed an advisory decree to reduce the use of plastic bags in supermarkets. It is important to understand that Ukrainian municipalities are very limited in passing any restrictive directives, which can only be adopted by the government. So we are a little worried and don't know how retailers will react. As expected, some stores began to "bragger" their "environmental bag", which will decompose within 3 years. We immediately began to explain what oxidized plastic is and how dangerous it is. So far, most retailers who have started using these bags have refused to use them.
As the next step in the implementation of the directive, the Lviv City Council and Lviv Zero Waste decided to launch a "No Plastic Bag" publicity campaign from April 9, 2019 to July 3, which is the International No Plastic Bag Day. . The campaign goals are:
So it all started on April 9th: 8 stores, 16 supermarkets, and more than 100 stores. Different retailers have joined the event, offering various ways to reduce single-use plastics:
Use paper bags and cotton bags instead of plastic bags. Refuse to use plastic bags at the cash register. Replace plastic gloves with reusable pliers and shovel. Offer discounts for cotton bags. Provide rewards for those who come to the store with their own bags and containers.
After that day, we can see many permanent changes. For example, some stores replaced plastic gloves with reusable utensils, and they continued to use them afterwards. Some stores have begun to develop loyalty programs for customers who use their own bags and containers to shop, and other stores have begun to sell cotton bags for crops and other groceries.
The event received important media coverage: 2 international media, 8 national media, 30 local media and 10 other cities’ media reported on it, as well as more than 10 TV storylines.
After the event started, we received 5 requests from other cities to support them in carrying out similar activities. At the same time, the United Nations Development Program asked us to replicate the sport in other cities. Therefore, we decided to organize a round table for retailers and other stakeholders in Kiev. After the incident, the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources decided to support the movement. So this is when the Ukraine Zero Waste Alliance, the United Nations Development Programme and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources launched the "No Plastic Bag" national campaign in Ukraine.
We created a list of requirements that retailers should implement in order to join it, but considering that this is the first experience for most people, we are not too strict to let them choose the activities they want to implement. All participants who want to participate must fill out the registration form and describe the activities they plan to carry out. We received more than 100 applications from 42 cities and towns. The most interesting part is to see who applied: city councils, youth committees, community centers, libraries, bookstores, coffee shops, pharmacies, and of course different supermarkets. From small towns with a population of more than 10.000 to the largest cities in Ukraine, such as Kiev, Kharkov, and Lviv, there are applications.
We organized different activities during the event. For example, on July 3, Kharkiv Zero Waste consulted more than 1,000 people in supermarkets in two major cities and made a flowerbed made of plastic bags in a public place. The idea behind this art installation is to let people choose between different types of coverings for parks and gardens: green grass or plastic bags. On the same day, we held a press conference with reporters and representatives of various organizations on the Day without Plastic Bags. Our ideas have spread throughout Ukraine.
Perhaps the most important achievement we achieved during the campaign was the small changes left after a day of action. Some stores will always replace disposable gloves with pliers and shovels, and others have begun selling cotton bags and planning loyalty programs for their responsible customers. Another important result is to allow people to develop the habit of using their own handbags and buying in bulk. Shopping in supermarket chains with handbags and boxes is no longer considered weird.
Our ministry’s support is another major achievement: now we know that plastic pollution will be resolved at different levels.
Now, we plan to let all participating retailers maintain the changes they have implemented and encourage them to take new actions to reduce the use of plastic bags in their stores. In addition, as part of the plastic-free July event, we continue to promote handbags, cotton bags, etc. Every day we receive photos of people using their bags in stores, so we see the development of sports. There is still a lot to do, but we know that this process has already begun, and we are moving towards huge changes!
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