The hunt for single-use plastics
13 January 2022
What if, as a consumer, we had the power to make things happen? Under pressure from environmental organizations, opinion leaders and consumers, governments seem to have to bend today.
Currently, the packaging production market represents almost half of all plastic waste produced in the world. While the global production of plastic has been growing rapidly since its creation in 1950 (9.1 billion tons already produced to date), governments are trying to put a stop to this exponential curve that threatens our planet. In 2022, many measures have been adopted or are coming into force to fight against single-use plastic, the number one enemy of our oceans. Overview of these laws that will change our daily life, for the better.
Straws, disposable cutlery, confetti or sandwich boxes, single-use plastic had already been in the line of fire of the French government in January 2020. For 2022, the regulations are tightening, and it is the packaging of more than 30 fruits and vegetables, which will now be banned. Barbara Pompili, Minister of Ecological Transition, wishes with this new measure to avoid the production of more than one billion unnecessary plastic packaging, used for this market.
Other measures are also implemented in France between 2022 and 2023, such as the installation of water fountains in bars, restaurants and nightclubs, to reduce the quantity of plastic bottles.
The anti-waste law set by the government aims to achieve zero plastic packaging by 2040.
This is no joke: as of April 1, 2022, the United Kingdom will implement a green tax on plastic packaging. The Plastic Packaging Tax, or PPT, is set at £200 (about €240) per tonne, on plastic packaging that does not reach a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content. The aim? To encourage a greater use of recycled plastic and thus increase the resources in the recycling chains and in the collection of waste.
In Canada, the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is leading to a ban on plastic bags, plastic cutlery, straws and beer bottle rings by the end of 2022. However, the production of these products is still allowed for export.
For Steven Guilbeault, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the biggest challenge facing his country is not so much the production of plastic packaging as Canada’s recycling system: in 2016, 3.3 million tons of plastic waste were thrown away and less than a tenth of this waste was recycled. Only 12 recyclers existed in the entire country at the time. Canada has set a goal of recycling 90% of plastic waste by 2030.
In 2022, the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules Bill passed in 2021 will come into force. The manufacture, import, storage, distribution, sale and use of single-use plastics will be banned as of July 1. This includes cutlery, straws, packaging films (food or cigarette packs), plastic or PVC banners, plastic sticks…
A program to ban 15 to 16 single-use plastic items, such as plastic bags, straws, plates and cutlery, could be banned in Abu Dhabi by the end of 2022. This regulation was already under discussion in 2020 but was postponed due to the health crisis.
THE UNITED STATES, THE BAD PUPILS
On December 1, 2021, a report entitled “Reckoning with the US Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste“, published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS), calls on the United States to create a national strategy to reduce its contribution to ocean plastic waste by the end of 2022. Among other things, the report recommends a massive expansion of recycling processes and infrastructure, which are deemed insufficient. In 2016, the United States generated more plastic waste than any other country, exceeding that of all European Union member states combined. Hundreds of organizations are also calling on the Biden administration to take concrete action in his first year in office, via the #PLASTICFREEPRESIDENT movement. The new U.S. president’s administration nevertheless expressed in November 2021 its willingness to fight the scourge of plastic, including support for the development of a global treaty to combat marine plastic pollution.