Published by Account ‘Something Special’ on Mar 6, 2018
Photo Credit to Daniel Muller/GreenSpace
Published by Account ‘Something Special’ on Mar 6, 2018
Photo Credit to Daniel Muller/GreenSpace
Brussels targets single-use plastics in an urgent clean-up plan that aims to make all packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030
– by Daniel Boffey in Brussels,
The EU is waging war against plastic waste as part of an urgent plan to clean up Europe’s act and ensure that every piece of packaging on the continent is reusable or recyclable by 2030.
Following China’s decision to ban imports of foreign recyclable material, Brussels on Tuesday launched a plastics strategy designed to change minds in Europe, potentially tax damaging behaviour, and modernise plastics production and collection by investing €350m (£310m) in research.
In the EU’s sights, Timmermans said, were throw-away items such as drinking straws, “lively coloured” bottles that do not degrade, coffee cups, lids and stirrers, cutlery and takeaway packaging.
The former Dutch diplomat told the Guardian: “If we don’t do anything about this, 50 years down the road we will have more plastic than fish in the oceans … we have all the seen the images, whether you watch [the BBC’s] Blue Planet, whether you watch the beaches in Asian countries after storms.
“If children knew what the effects are of using single-use plastic straws for drinking sodas, or whatever, they might reconsider and use paper straws or no straws at all.
“We are going to choke on plastic if we don’t do anything about this. How many millions of straws do we use every day across Europe? I would have people not use plastic straws any more. It only took me once to explain to my children. And now … they go looking for paper straws, or don’t use straws at all. It is an issue of mentality.”
He added: “[One] of the challenges we face is to explain to consumers that arguably some of the options in terms of the colour of bottles you can buy will be more limited than before. But I am sure that if people understand that you can’t buy that lively green bottle, it will have a different colour, but it can be recycled, people will buy into this.”
As part of its strategy, the EU will carry out an impact assessment on a variety of ways to tax the use of single use plastics, although details on potential models were notably lacking from the published strategy documents.
Last week, the budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger, claimed that a levy on plastics could be one way in which Brussels could fill the €13bn hole in its budget left by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
“Let’s study this,” Timmermans said. “In a perfect world the revenues of this tax will decrease very rapidly, we have to check in an impact assessment whether this is a sustainable form of income also for the EU’s finances. I think there is a lot of support out there.”
The EU wants 55% of all plastic to be recycled by 2030 and for member states to reduce the use of bags per person from 90 a year to 40 by 2026.
An additional €100m is being made available on top of current spending to research better designs, durability and recyclability and EU member states will be put under an obligation to “monitor and reduce their marine litter”.
The commission said it will promote easy access to tap water on the streets of Europe to reduce demand for bottled water, and they will provide member states with additional guidance on how to improve the sorting and collection of recyclable plastic by consumers.
The EU’s executive is also to propose new clearer labelling for plastic packaging so consumers are clear about their recyclability, and there are plans to ban the addition of microplastics to cosmetics and personal care products, a move that has already been taken by the UK government.
New port reception facilities will seek to streamline waste management to ensure less gets dumped in the oceans under a directive already published.
“More and more it is becoming a health problem because it is degrading, going to little chips, fish are eating it and it is coming back to our dinner table,” said European Commission vice president Jyrki Katainen on Tuesday.
While the EU’s initiative was thick on pledges, and short on detail on how to force member states to act, Timmermans insisted the bloc was serious about the challenge facing them.
Every year, Europeans generate 25m tonnes of plastic waste, but less than 30% is collected for recycling. Across the world, plastics make up 85% of beach litter.
Timmermans praised Theresa May for her recent strategy on plastics, despite criticism elsewhere that it lacked teeth. He noted, however, that charges on plastic bags, while “presented as a national measure” were “based on a European directive”. A spokesman for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs responded that the UK had proposed the charges on bags before a EU directive had been proposed.
Catherine Bearder, a Liberal Democrat member of the environment committee, said: “The EU strategy is far from perfect, but it’s better than what the UK government is offering. Theresa May would have you think she is the fairy godmother of plastics – but she isn’t. I will be long dead before the end of Mrs May’s strategy. I hope the oceans won’t be too.”
Timmermans nevertheless said he believed that the UK’s attitude on plastic was ahead of many member states, and that he was confident that the UK would not undercut any Brussels initiatives after Brexit.
He said: “If you saw the impact that Blue Planet had on the public opinion in the United Kingdom, immediately leading to a reaction by the British government, I think this can happen in most of our member states
“It’s urgent because of the change in the Chinese position. We can’t export these plastics any more to China. The knee-jerk reaction is that we will have to burn or bury it here. Let’s use this opportunity to show we can also recycle it here.”
Chinese restrictions from January will hit UK recycling efforts and risk plastic waste being stockpiled or ending up in landfill, warn industry leaders
Thu 7 Dec 2017 11.58 GMT First published on Thu 7 Dec 2017 06.30 GMT
This article is 2 months old
Sorting paper and plastic waste in Oregon, US. In 2016, China imported 7.3m tonnes of waste plastics from developed countries including the UK, US and Japan. Photograph: Natalie Behring/Getty Images
A ban on imports of millions of tonnes of plastic waste by the Chinese government from January could see an end to collection of some plastic in the UK and increase the risk of environmental pollution, according to key figures in the industry.
Recycling companies say the imminent restrictions by China – the world’s biggest market for household waste – will pose big challenges to the UK’s efforts to recycle more plastic.
Analysis of customs data by Greenpeace reveals British companies have shipped more than 2.7m tonnes of plastic waste to China and Hong Kong since 2012 – two-thirds of the UK’s total waste plastic exports.
Pressure is growing on Thérèse Coffey, the environment minister, to take urgent action to support and build the UK recycling industry to meet the challenges created by the China ban. But when asked recently, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, said: “I don’t know what impact it will have. It is … something to which – I will be completely honest – I have not given it sufficient thought.”
Stuart Foster from Recoup, said there were indications in 2008 and 2012 that the Chinese market might be restricted in future but no action was taken in the UK. He said the restrictions on the export market should be an opportunity for the UK to develop its own infrastructure and create a circular economy in plastics.
But there was no robust plan in place to cope with the impact of the closure of the biggest market for waste in the world and the restrictions would lead to stockpiling of plastic waste, more incineration and the risk of more landfill.
“Whatever happens we need to maintain control of the material because the bigger worry is about leakage of plastic into the environment,” said Foster.
China’s dominance in manufacturing means that for years it has been the world’s largest importer of recyclable materials. In 2016, China imported 7.3m tonnes of waste plastics from developed countries including the UK, the US and Japan.
Why does the UK export its waste to China?
But this summer the Chinese announced they intended to stop the importation of 24 kinds of solid waste by the end of this year, including polyethylene terephthalate (Pet) drinks bottles, other plastic bottles and containers, and all mixed paper, in a campaign against yang laji or “foreign garbage”.
The Chinese have also increased quality controls for all other waste including cardboard, something other markets are likely to follow, which will also put the British recycling industry under huge pressure. The impact could see local authorities reducing collections because they are not economically viable.
Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association, said the government was asleep on the job and the situation was a shambles. “If the government is serious about waste and recycling, they need to invest and come up with a coherent plan for the recycling industry,” he said.
Ray Georgeson, head of the Resource Association, an advocacy body for the recycling industry, said the lower-grade materials would have nowhere to go.
“Can you imagine the press coverage if local authority recycling rates drop by 5 or 10% because the plastics have no market to go to?” he said.
Lee Marshall, chief executive of Larac, which advises local authorities on recycling, told Greenpeace the fee at sorting plants may increase for councils because the sorting would have to be done to a better standard for new markets, or the price they get for any materials may decrease.
This could lead some councils to stop collecting some types of plastic, such as meat trays and yoghurt pots, for recycling. “While councils don’t like turning materials off … if the economics are such that it does cause them a problem, that’s a decision they’ll have to make,” he said.
Marcus Gover, chief executive of Wrap, said the restrictions posed “substantial challenges” and urgent action was needed to secure a thriving recycling supply chain for plastics and paper to benefit the UK economically and environmentally. The quality of UK recycling has to improve to meet higher standards put in place by China and other markets, he said
Many believe the restriction of the Chinese market should be opportunity for the UK to develop its recycling infrastructure and forge a link with the UK manufacturing industry to utilise more recycled plastic.
But many experts said the government was not taking action.
Foster said: “If you could get the link in place with UK manufacturers making plastic products, so that it makes business and environmental sense to use the recycled content and at the same time build up the recycling infrastructure in the UK, this is a real opportunity.
“We need the right policy put in place. But unfortunately because of Brexit … we have other priorities.”
Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “This ban could mean a double whammy for council tax payers if the price of our exported waste falls and the cost of UK disposal rises. The government should show leadership and invest in more reprocessing facilities at home to reuse these valuable materials, create green jobs and prevent plastic and paper pollution.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work with the waste industry and the Environment Agency to understand the impact across the sector of the Chinese government’s proposed restrictions on waste imports.
“We are also looking at ways to process more of our recycling at home as part of our resources and waste strategy.”
By Ben Silcox, CBC News Posted: Jul 20, 2017 5:04 PM ATLast Updated: Jul 20, 2017 9:09 PM AT
Chinese buyers snapped up more than 140,000 live Canadian lobsters within 24 hours last week through a Beijing-based online retailer, and the demand can only grow, says a New Brunswick supplier.
The live lobsters came from a variety of sources for the sale July 14 on jd.com, one of the largest e-commerce websites in the world.
According to a news release from the company, the surge in lobster purchases was part of a sale promoting fresh food from Canada, which also included cherries and blueberries among the offerings.
“They want 10,000 pounds a day,” said Nathan Song, director of the New Brunswick-based Bay Shore Lobster Ltd., one of the suppliers for the website. “The first stage of the promotion is five days a week, so that’s around 50,000 pounds from just us.”
Song, who was born in China, said the country has recently emerged as a lucrative market for lobster. Restaurant owners and home chefs alike hold Canadian lobster in high regard, so much so, they are willing to pay a heavy premium on shipping, he said.
“The people in China like the live ones,” Song said. “They believe if they are alive and are of good quality, they are from Canada. So people will pay more money than for other countries’ [lobsters].”
Normally, Bay Shore catches enough lobster to have a year-round supply, but with the Chinese demand, the company in Back Bay could sell out by October, Song said.
Premier Brian Gallant paid a visit to executives of the website, which is host to 236 million active users, in Beijing last October to promote New Brunswick-based food products.
The Canadian promotion coincides with an event at JD headquarters, where a “Canadian fresh food pavilion” is serving samples of lobster, blueberries and cherries. At the end of July, JD will be holding seminars in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver for businesses interested in selling products through jd.com.
Song said it is no secret China is a powerful buyer, but the opportunity for wider distribution there is often forgotten about.
“We have 1.4 billion people, and the live lobster market is only open to about five per cent of the main country now,” he said. “There is lots of opportunity to open an even wider market.”
China is the second biggest importer of Canadian lobster next to America. Demand for the crustacean in China has more than quadrupled since 2011, going from buying about $27.5 million worth of lobster that year to about $162.8 million in 2016.
Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada, said exports of lobster to China have rapidly increased “in the last six or eight years,” although there are some catches to the success.
“There’s a debate in the Canadian industry about the profitability of the e-commerce channel,” Irvine said. “The demand is good, but they don’t return the best prices. It’s a volume market, not a value market.”
However, Irvine said, if a facility is able to produce high volumes of lobster, China’s burgeoning middle class can provides the demand for a huge supply of Atlantic Lobster.
Plastic pollution of all sizes poses a grave threat to seafood producers around the world. Abandoned fishing equipment entangles marine life, including fish and seabirds, often killing them. Derelict lines and nets get caught in gear, boat propellers and other equipment, damaging them. Tiny bits of foam packaging and plastic microfibers from textile manufacturing are ingested by fish.
The macro plastics, such as lost gear and bags, can come from fishing boats or from land-based sources, washed into the oceans during storms. But in some ways, the tiny plastics invisible to the naked eye are a greater danger. Only a tiny fraction of plastic pollution floats, and an unknown amount ends up in the bellies of fish.
By Charlie Bayliss For Mailonline
Published: 12:49 EST, 14 February 2018 | Updated: 13:11 EST, 14 February 2018
Photo Credit to John Conner Press associates Ltd.