__ A wave of renewed environmental consciousness is arising across the globe. The global climate strike, initiated by activist Greta Thunberg, is said to be the biggest environmental protests that the 21st century has ever seen.

In this global climate of civilian militarism lobbying for a greener future and a more ethical coexistence system between humankind and animals, a significant setback on the side of pollution legislation has been recently announced.

On October 2nd  of this year, India was supposed to impose a nation-wide ban on single-use plastic. The ban would have entered into force on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set the goal to make India free of single-use plastics by 2022. During her speech on India’s Independence Day, she had appealed to the nation to stop the use of single-use plastic as the first step of a nation-wide awareness-raising campaign, which had to begin in the second week of September.

The plastic ban has not entered into force though and will not be enforced in the near future. The Indian government has declared that the measure seemed too disruptive for the industry at a time when the country is experiencing a slowdown of economic growth and significant job losses.

The Indian nation is estimated to produce 14 million tonnes of plastic annually. The lack of an institutionalized system to recycle and process the waste leads to widespread littering, especially of the aquatic resources.

Despite the defeat on the Indian front, the legislative wave in favor of the ban on plastic continues.

The European Union had its say on the subject of plastic earlier this year after China had previously banned the amount of 24 types of solid waste, including several plastic types. The new law put pressure on the European Countries which were no longer able to solve the waste issue by exporting the litter anymore.

A ban on 10 single-use plastic products will be enforced starting 2021 to diminish ocean pollution. Amongst the incriminated items are single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, and chopsticks); single-use plastic plates; plastic straws; cotton bud sticks made of plastic; plastic balloon sticks; oxo-degradable plastics and food containers and expanded polystyrene cups.

One of the biggest and most important innovations of the law is introducing and supporting the principles of the circular economy. According to Eu, the law can be read as a “step towards establishing a circular economy in which the design and production of plastics and plastic products fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and in which more sustainable materials are developed and promoted.”

For example, under the new law, the European countries will be required to invest significantly in the collection of plastic bottles achieving 77 percent collection target by 2025 and 90 percent collection target by 2029. The law will also require plastic bottles to contain a percentage of recycled plastic of at least 30 percent by 2030. The measure aims to achieve a behavioral shift in the consumers as well as an immediate reduction of CO2 emissions.

Even more importantly, the new law extends the responsibility of collecting and recycling plastic waste to the manufactures. For example, manufactures of fishing gear will have to cover the costs for the collection of the fishnets lost at sea.

The law will also oblige manufacturers to include on their product labels that state the danger of discarding plastic products into nature. For example, cigarette manufacturers will be required to advertise the environmental negative consequences of not disposing properly of cigarettes’ plastic filters.

The European law certainly marks an unprecedented effort to reduce the disruptive effects of plastic pollution in our oceans. However, it is evident that the legislative optimum on the issue plastic has not been reached yet as much in Europe as in the rest of the world.

 

Written by Stephanie Busuito