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06 June 2019

3, 2, 1… World Oceans Day 2019! On Saturday 8 June, Seas At Risk members, together with thousands of activists, volunteers and citizens across Europe, will celebrate World Oceans Day.

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06 June 2019

Portuguese NGO and Seas At Risk member, Sciaena, together with the Marine and Environmental Research Centre (CIMA), recently held a seminar on the topic of changing legislation of plastic packaging in the EU and tackling rising plastic pollution. The seminar, titled ‘Portugal and the reduction of single-use plastics’, took place on 3 June at the University of Algarve. Structured according to the circular value chain, the seminar followed the full lifecycle of plastic, featuring speakers from the manufacturing sector and the recycling industry, as well as retailers, government administrators, environmental organisations and the academic research community. It also included panels on legislation. The event was intended to bring together a diverse group of Portuguese stakeholders and to create a national forum to discuss the problem of plastic pollution in relation to the environment. It also opened a discussion of how new EU legislation will be implemented nationally and translated into action so as to reduce society’s reliance on single-use plastics.

Sectoral stakeholders’ and government agencies’ action plans to tackle the plastic crisis were presented and discussed within the framework of the implementation of the Single-Use Plastics Directive. At the event, stakeholders and participants expressed their willingness to work towards achieving circular plastic consumption by reducing, reusing and supporting more transparent and efficient recycling processes. There was also a clear commitment to meet again and present their progress.

Presentations and discussions focused firstly on the Single-Use Plastics Directive, particularly the legislative hurdles to correctly implement the legislation in all Member States. The need for additional regulations – and an overhaul of existing ones - to achieve the goals of the Directive were explained, e.g. food packaging requirements. Deposit Refund Systems (DRS) were frequently cited as an example of efficient implementation, with the progressive regulation on the introduction of a DRS approved by the Portuguese Parliament in 2018 proving a useful live example. Environmental organisations were not alone in highlighting the importance of DRS schemes, with the plastic industry itself pointing to the need for such initiatives. This was illustrated by polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, which should contain at least 25% recycled plastic by 2025 (calculated as an average for all PET bottles placed on the market in the territory of that Member State). These goals cannot yet be achieved in Europe, as much of the plastic litter collected is exported, with the remainder being of insufficient volume and quality to be made available on the market. Giving plastic an inherent value throughout the whole lifecycle means that DRS systems improve the availability and quality of recycled materials and pave the way for achieving the Directive’s goals.

This was Sciaena’s first event as part of NGO efforts to tackle marine litter. While it intends to focus on specific issues for future seminars - such as DRS schemes, microplastics or fishing gear - this event demonstrated the usefulness of taking a broad and inclusive approach to stakeholder engagement. After all, the plastic pollution problem was created by our entire society, from producers to consumers, thus our entire society will be needed to solve it.

21 May 2019

Today, the Council of the European Union adopted legislation to regulate the use of single-use plastic with the objective to limit plastic marine pollution. As of 2021, single-use plastic cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, cotton buds, balloon sticks and expanded polystyrene food containers and cups will be banned in the EU.

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10 April 2019

The emerging national debate on the environmental impact of single-use plastic, and its restriction, highlights the need to tackle another major source of marine pollution: microplastics. The European Chemical Agency recently called for a public consultation to restrict microplastics. Seas At Risk calls on Environmental and Health Ministries, civil society organisations and research institutes across Europe to take part in the consultation process and submit arguments and evidence in favour of an ambitious and wide-ranging restriction.

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20 December 2018

After years of advocating for strong legislation to effectively reduce marine litter, Seas At Risk today welcomes the adoption of two ambitious pieces of European legislation which will pave the way for a bluer and more sustainable future.

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19 December 2018

Following a real marathon to deliver before the next EU elections, EU institutions have agreed on the first ever ambitious measures to address both land and sea-based plastic pollution. Seas At Risk considers the recently adopted measures as a first step in the right direction. 

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14 December 2018

The clock is ticking. The 2020 deadline to deliver healthy oceans is fast approaching. Seas At Risk, together with several NGOs and thousands of  European citizens, is determined to ensure that European Ministers do not ignore the deadline to which they have already made a legal commitment. With a joint NGO call on governments to take 20 measures to progress to healthy seas by 2020, Seas At Risk has launched the “Save #OurBlueLung” campaign to galvanise a strong push towards a bluer future.  

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30 October 2018

On 23 October, the European Parliament voted in favour of the Single Use Plastic Directive, with an overwhelming majority of MEPs supporting the European Commission’s plan to reduce pollution from single-use plastics. 

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19 October 2018

Mid-October marked an important milestone in the EU’s efforts to tackle marine litter in its waters, with European Parliament committees voting on two crucial legislative tools in the Commission’s fight against marine litter. Both votes showed strong support for the proposed Directives, which must now be secured in the subsequent legislative process.

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26 September 2018

Last week, G7 Environment Ministers met in Halifax, Canada to discuss climate change, oceans and clean energy. The Oceans Partnership Summit brought together some 200 representatives from industry, civil society and research, including Seas At Risk. These delegates were invited to come up with recommendations for the Ministers on sustainable oceans and fisheries, marine litter and resilient coasts and coastal communities.

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13 September 2018

On 13 September the European Parliament voted in favour of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, proposed by the European Commission in January 2018. Seas At Risk welcomes the Parliament’s endorsement of the Strategy. This vote shows that the European institutions acknowledge the need for Europe to change the ways it produces and uses plastic, and are in favour of moving towards the circular economy model.

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12 September 2018

On 29 August, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) gave its views on the Commission’s proposal on a Single-use Plastics Directive. The majority of MEPs in ENVI are seeking more ambitious measures to reduce plastic pollution than those proposed by the European Commission.

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10 September 2018

The European Environment Agency is encouraging citizens to get involved in its Marine Litter Watch Month from 17 September to 16 October 2018. The project aims to combat plastic litter, using citizen science (scientific research partly conducted by members of the public) and mobile phone technology to help individuals and communities to build a compelling case to clean up Europe’s beaches.

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06 September 2018

Taxing plastics can help lead to a responsible use of the material by triggering the necessary reduction of both production and consumption, a new report finds. However, a plastic tax will only work if designed to influence producer and consumer behaviour, rather than raising revenue.

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11 July 2018

The European Parliament's Environment Committee today voted to strengthen the European Commission’s Plastics Strategy, which aims to reduce plastic pollution and marine litter.

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26 June 2018

The next EU legislative period will start in July 2019, from which time the European Parliament will no longer use single-use plastic bottles at its facilities and meetings. On 11 June, the Bureau of the Parliament agreed to include new conditions in its upcoming canteen and catering contract, disallowing the delivery of plastic bottles to Parliament facilities. Instead, the number of drinking water fountains will be extended to facilitate the use of reusable bottles at Parliament facilities.

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04 June 2018

President Tajani’s response to NGOs’ challenge to ban single-use plastics from the European Parliament is disappointing, and serves to highlight that the Parliament could do considerably more to reduce waste generation. The imminent renewal of its catering contract, however, presents an ideal opportunity to implement real change.

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28 May 2018

In an unprecedented move to tackle marine litter, the European Commission launched the long-awaited proposal for legislation to reduce the flow of single use plastics and fishing gear into the seas. The initiative focuses on the 10 most commonly found single use plastics and fishing gear, which together represent around 70% of marine litter found on Europe’s beaches.

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24 April 2018

After many years of campaigning for a deposit return scheme, the UK is finally taking real steps towards the introduction of deposit return schemes. Seas At Risk member, the Marine Conservation Society, is hopeful that deposit return schemes will soon be in place across the UK. With yet more countries taking this crucial step to reduce pollution from beverage containers, it increases the pressure on the EU to make this mandatory for all countries.   The Scottish Government led the way for the UK, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing in September 2017 that Scotland would implement a deposit return system. This was after two years of tireless campaigning by the ‘Have You Got The Bottle?’ coalition, of which the Marine Conservation Society was a founding member. Scotland is now at the stage of designing a suitable system.     In March of this year, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, announced his plan to introduce a deposit return scheme for England. This is welcome news but the work is far from over. During the upcoming consultation process, certain elements of the drinks and plastics industries which oppose deposit return systems will undoubtedly work to derail efforts to bring in a useful and effective system. Continued efforts are required from campaigners, therefore, to ensure that a fit-for-purpose scheme will actually be implemented.   The best system is one that will give the country the greatest increase in high quality recycling and an associated decrease in litter. It should include, at a minimum, glass, plastic and metal drinks containers of all sizes, as well as providing for the inclusion of other materials such as tetrapaks and new materials. The scheme should also have the option for review and extension in order to ensure that it continues to drive container returns.   It is imperative that Scotland and England coordinate their actions and harmonise the schemes so that a consumer can return a bottle or can in London in exactly the same manner as in Edinburgh. Ideally, Wales and Northern Ireland should introduce similar schemes simultaneously, allowing systems to operate smoothly across the whole of the UK.    The campaigns in Scotland and England have been driven by multiple NGOs working together for a number of years. Recently, however, a number of factors have combined to create a perfect storm of awareness, with calls for change coming from all areas in society.    UK politicians have adopted the rhetoric of wanting to make a difference, with the current government stating that its vision ‘to be the first generation to leave our environment better than we found it'. This is against the backdrop of a difficult socio-political climate, where the focus is firmly on the daily challenges presented by Brexit and there are few good news stories on either the progression or direction of that change.     For over 20 years, the Marine Conservation Society has organised beach cleans and surveys, and the data supplied by their thousands of volunteers played a big part in proving the need for a deposit return scheme. Plastic and glass bottles, aluminium cans, and bottle caps always feature high on the list of items collected in any beach clean. Last year alone, during the Great British Beach Clean, volunteers gathered 3,540 plastic bottles, 2,674 cans and 11,154 plastic bottle tops from British beaches, adding up to 57 items of drink-related litter for every 100m surveyed, and 10% of all litter. It is not only these volunteers who understand the scale of the problem: a YouGov survey commissioned by the Marine Conservation Society showed 73% support from the British public for a deposit return scheme.    The importance of the media in highlighting the problems of marine plastics should not be underestimated. Recent watersheds in the national consciousness were Sky’s Ocean Rescue programmes and, in particular, the David Attenborough wildlife documentary, Blue Planet II, which brought the impact of plastic consumption on the marine environment to an audience of millions. 

Across the EU at present, there is little consistency in either policy or practice with regard to deposit return schemes. While a number of Member States have had schemes in place for various kinds of beverage containers for many years, they all function differently, and many countries have no scheme at all. Studies show that deposit return schemes produce high quality material streams for recycling, as well as reducing beverage container-related littering. The upcoming EU legislation to tackle the top 10 litter items most commonly found on beaches provides an ideal opportunity to introduce measures to encourage deposit return schemes for beverage containers in all Member States.

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