The Malta Independent 16 September 2019, Monday

TMID Editorial: Single-Use Plastic Products Strategy – a giant step in the right direction

Monday, 13 May 2019, 10:17 Last update: about 5 months ago

The Single-Use Plastic Products Strategy launched for public consultation by Environment Minister Jose Herrera last week is a very welcome and much needed step in the right direction.

It comes at a time when awareness on the environmental damage of these items is at an all-time high, when Malta’s beaches are littered with micro plastics, and when Malta’s landfills are filling-up fast. Reducing Malta’s waste generation is a must, and this initiative is a very important step towards that goal.

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As an example, the government intends to ‘restrict the placement on the market’ for plastic plates, straws, cutlery, sticks to support balloons and kebab sticks. Alternatives to plastic are available for all of these. This newsroom asked Minister Herrera whether this meant that, for example, straws would be banned, to which the minister responded in the affirmative.

Single-use plastic products are ruining our beaches, killing marine-life, and are an all-round problem for the environment and waste-management. The government has made strides to improve separation of waste, but the public also has to do their part. Reducing the use of plastic all –round, and using the same products made out of less environmentally harmful materials will help. Recycling is good, reducing the use of plastic altogether is better, and this is what we need to aim for. This will, of course, require a change in mentality.

One measure introduced through the strategy deserves to be seriously applauded. The government intends to ban the release of balloons and plastic confetti during public events. This has been a battle cry for environmentalists for quite a while. Indeed PD MEP candidate Cami Appelgren, who runs her own NGO – Malta Clean Up - that cleans up Malta’s beaches and countryside - was at the forefront of this push, constantly pressing local councils, churches and even the government to ban their usage.

This measure is a win – win for everyone involved.

Another strong measure proposed will see separate waste bins for plastic products introduced in many areas, such as camping sites, picnic areas, and tourism zones. Such a measure should probably have been taken many years ago, and is finally going to happen.  This will hopefully help keep the more densely frequented tourism areas more clean. Waste collections in these areas will also need to be much more frequent than in other zones if this is going to work.

The Minister also included a particularly interesting measure in the strategy which aims to, by 2025 “create a national fund and/ or scheme which encourages enterprises or institutions to carry out research or to invest in innovative technology that can help to attain the aim of this strategy – the reduction of the negative impacts of plastics on the environment and human health.” This is a great incentive for people to come up with new ways to help reduce plastic use in Malta, and environmental groups could potentially make great use of this fund in order to come up with creative ways to deal with the issue.

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