In response to the letter sent by Seas At Risk and 6 other NGOs calling on the EU institutions to give up their addiction to single use plastics, the Commission and the Council both claim they are working towards greener public procurement. The Parliament has to date provided no response to the letter sent on 31st March, raising questions on their commitment to the Circular Economy.

The seven NGOs that make up the Rethink Plastic Alliance, called on the European Institutions to demonstrate the circular economy in action by removing all single use plastics from their buildings. Currently, the cafeterias and meeting rooms are full of plastic water bottles, cutlery, coffee cups and stirrers, creating a huge amount of unnecessary waste. Considering the waste hierarchy is enshrined in European law, with waste prevention and reuse of materials being at the top, it is surprising this situation came about in the first place.

The Council was the first to respond on the 22nd of May. The full response to Seas At Risk can be found here. Specifically, the Council says:

“The General Secretariat of the Council commits at its highest level to, inter alia, 'prevent pollution by reducing the environmental impact of its activities', 'avoid producing waste, encourage the re-use of written-off material resources and promote the recycling of end-of-life materials' and 'encourage environmentally-friendly behaviour in all its staff, contractors and visitors through training, information and awareness-raising'”, they also claim: “Being fully aware of the potential environmental impacts of plastic bottles and cups, the General Secretariat of the Council has installed water dispensers in practically all of its meeting rooms and encourages participants to use them instead of bottled water.” While this is a good initiative, it only takes a short browse of Council meeting pictures to notice the plastic water bottles in front of each participant.

The Commission was slower to respond to the coalition letter, with a reply finally being received on the 4th of August, which can be viewed here. They outlined the efforts made to reduce waste generation within the Commission, especially within the framework of the Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). The Commission committed to proposing a new policy to reduce the consumption of single use items to the next EMAS steering committee meeting in September. However a similar situation to the Council exists, many Commission meetings are still full of plastic bottles, plastic cups and cutlery.

While it is clear that both institutions are aware of the need to reduce their waste, and make efforts to achieve that, the prevalence of single use plastic items in all buildings demonstrates that efforts must be increased. Using reusable cutlery, jugs of water instead of bottles, and replacing plastic stirrers are some of the easiest waste reduction methods there are.

Seas At Risk eagerly awaits a reply from the European Parliament, and in the meantime, will be sending pictures of all the single use plastic bottles in Parliament meetings to the @EUvebeenbottled twitter account to highlight their prevalence. 


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