The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday

Watch: Balloon releases and plastic confetti in public events to be banned under new strategy

Kevin Schembri Orland Friday, 10 May 2019, 13:06 Last update: about 11 months ago

Plastic confetti and balloon releases will be prohibited from use in public events by 2020, according to a new strategy to combat against single-use plastics in Malta.

The strategy has been launched for a six week public consultation. Environment Minister Jose Herrera launched the new single-use plastics strategy today during an event at Ghar Lapsi. The strategy aims to bring about a change in mentality, and tackle the ten most used single-use plastic products

The Strategy has 23 main measures, with a number of sub measures included as well. Measures are aimed at reducing single use plastic consumption, providing economic instruments such as incentives and disincentives, measures on separate waste collection and others like raising awareness.

The use of plastic confetti and balloons made headlines last summer, as a number of environmental activists, including Cami Appelgren from Malta Clean Up, took up this fight, arguing against their use due to the severe harm they have on marine life. This is but one of a number of measures proposed to reduce the use of single-use plastics.

The strategy document reads that by 2022 plastic carrier bags cannot be distributed for free at the point of sale, and will see an Increase in the excise duty on plastic carrier bags. As for plastic wristbands during events, their use by 2020 will be restricted at public events as well as at beach resorts. As an alternative, paper waterproof wristbands or textile wristbands are recommended to be used.

By 2022, producers of tobacco and tobacco products are to finance the provision of ashtrays at all beaches including at beach resorts for the resort’s guests, the strategy also reads.

The government intends to restrict the use of plastic pizza lid support by 2020, and as an alternative suggests that a dough ball be baked in the middle of the pizza to hold the lid up.

The strategy also pushes to restrict the placement of a number of other plastic items on the market by 2021. These items include: Lollipops sticks (sold separately); Sticks to support balloons; Cotton bud sticks;  Straws; Cutlery; Food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene and others. The strategy recommends using products made from other materials, such as cardboard/ paper; stainless steel ; and wood.

Producers of food containers, packets and wrappers, beverage containers, cups for beverages (including covers and lids), lightweight plastic carrier bags, wet wipes, and balloons shall from 2023  cover amongst others, the cost of: The collection of such waste products from public collection systems; To clean-up litter; Of awareness raising measures

When it comes to plastic packaging, the government intends to introduce a voluntary scheme promoting areas within supermarkets where bulk food (e.g. olives, legumes, etc.) can be bought without plastic packaging, by 2022.

The government also intends to deal with detergent containers and containers for toiletries, and the government will introduce a return or refillable system whereby consumers are to benefit from a reward scheme.

Environment Minister Jose Herrera said that he felt it was about time for Malta to have a strategy to deal with single-use plastic, adding that Malta took this initiative before the EU concluded its policy. He said that Malta will be a leader in this.

When speaking about the environment, he said, people are not just talking about trees or biodiversity, but on ourselves, on our health.

He said that we are directly changing the course of nature.

He said that Malta will be part of the change in the positive. Single-use plastic leaves a negative impact on the environment in general, he said.

The minister said that the generation of plastic waste locally is increasing, adding that this challenge could be turned into an opportunity.

Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries Clint Camilleri said statistics show that around 49% of marine litter comes from illegally disposed of single-use plastic.

He spoke of the importance of preserving the sustainability of fish. He said that marine life swallow bits of plastic and end up dying from it. He also said that the government, and the public, need to be part of the solution.

Camilleri said that people need to throw waste in the proper disposal bins, and not on the floor, saying that people now need to make this choice. He also said that people need to choose to, when going on a boat, not take single-use plastic which will end up thrown in the sea.

“We need to take decisions if we want to protect the environment around us.”

Louise Spiteri, CEO of the Environment and Resources Authority spoke during the launch and said that EU policies are moving towards a circular economy. Through the elimination or reduction in use of single use plastic, Malta will participate in this EU move, and it is also extremely important for Malta, she said.

Plastic is a material that is damaging to the environment, she said. ERA’s role in this strategy, as a regulator, will be very important, she said, adding that they would need to ensure that there be positive results.

Executive Director of the ERA Michelle Piccinino said that through a circular economy, waste will be a resource. She said that the idea is to reuse a product or the material of said product as many times as possible before it becomes waste. “The main aim is to reduce the amount of material sent to landfill. This strategy addresses part of this issue.”

She said that the production of waste per capita is worrying.  She said that the EU approved a bill, which is not yet published, on single use plastics. She said that the EU’s aim is to reduce the environment damage by €22 million. “There are sustainable alternatives. There are some bars for example, who offer paper straws already, or wooden cutlery instead of plastic.”

The public consultation will last for six weeks, and comments can be sent to [email protected]

Photos and video: Alenka Falzon
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