The Malta Independent 18 September 2019, Wednesday

Battle against single use plastic this summer

Giulia Magri Monday, 17 June 2019, 11:08 Last update: about 3 months ago

During the summer months, Malta is well known for its numerous beach and boat parties which take place on a daily basis.

Both locals and foreigners enjoy such activities, yet one issue always rises to the surface: the millions of plastic items used during these events.

Plastic cups, straws and even plates are handed out at such events and if they are not collected or disposed of properly, more often than not they will end up in the sea.

Over the last couple of days there have already been a number of pictures and videos showing such parties with people drinking from plastic cups.

In a recent publication by the European Environment Agency, Malta was ranked fifth from the bottom when it comes to reducing the amount of plastic waste being generated.

Last month, the Ministry for the Environment launched a public consultation for a new strategy for the ban on single use plastics, banning items such as plastic confetti and balloon releases in the next few years.

Yet the question on everyone’s lips is; what is being done this summer to reduce single-use plastic items? The Malta Independent on Sunday contacted a number of people who work in the environment sector to suggest what can be done to reduce plastic waste this summer and why it is a necessity to act now rather than later.

A spokesperson for the environment Ministry and the ERA says that the two entities have been working hard to reduce the consumption of single use plastic items. “Just a few weeks ago we began an open consultation for the 23 measures which we will be implementing in the upcoming months to reduce and ban certain single use plastic items.

“After public consultation, we might change particular measures or even introduce new ones. Once the period of public consultation has passed, then the government can take the decision to change particular legislation.

“We are trying to come up with a holistic policy for the reduction of single use plastic items. Ideally during such summer events, more people will be inclined to use biodegradable cups, rather than single use plastic ones. Of course, some organisers might face problems as such products are still new on the market. Ideally people would come prepared to certain events as well. For example, if they have a beach party, they would carry their own ashtray so as to not litter the beach with cigarettes.

“Awareness is also an important key. We have a number of campaigns where we are highlighting the importance of reducing our use of plastic items, and especially the impact such products have on our eco-system. If people begin looking at alternative means to reduce plastic, once the new strategy for the ban/reduction on single use plastics is implemented, people would already had  adapted to the new measures.”

Clare Agius - spokesperson for the ‘Saving Our Blue’ campaign

‘Saving Our Blue’ is a campaign which forms part of an entity falling under the Ministry for Environment.

“My work as a spokesperson is to take part in events where we encourage people to adopt a plastic free way of life. Later on this summer we will host an interactive and educational talk with children who take part in SkolaSajf. The purpose behind such activities is to teach children the importance of respecting our island and sea, and why we should not litter.

Organisers should invest in biodegradable cups, as glass is prohibited at such events. “At least this would be a step forward in being more environmentally friendly. Secondly we can help inform people to reuse their cups throughout the night. As simple as it sounds, you are minimising the consumption and simply refilling your glass. It would be great if party organisers create a fun concept behind these biodegradable cups, and make it ‘hip’ for young people. The hardest target group are the young people. They are interested and do care about the environment, but if we have a party organiser who is aware and more conscious of how to promote these biodegradable cups, they will pick it up more quickly.

“Trends work with youths, and it is important that trend setters are aware of this. We also believe it is important that we have these educational workshops for SkolaSajf, for children to be educated and made aware that everyone is responsible for keeping the sea clean.”

Cami Appelgren - Founder of Malta Clean Up

“What can be done to decrease this form of single-use plastic during such parties? Firstly, there should be information provided at such events that littering is not accepted and that no one should throw trash in the sea.

“They could serve beer in aluminium cans or bottles rather than single use plastic cups, If they do need a cup, they should at least be provided paper cups. The issue with such biodegradable cups is that not all of them break down in the environment, but need a facility to be able to do so. Boats hosting parties should have clearly marked disposal areas for cans/bottle/ other waste on-board. The point must be made even clearer, since some people might be intoxicated and therefore must be encouraged further to dispose of the waste properly.

“Where there is a will there is a way. If we understand how people think and what motivates people to do the right thing, we can easily adapt our actions to serve both that and the environment. Every little change has a greater impact over time. Companies becoming environment friendly will be the future, so the businesses better adapt and fast if they wish to remain in business. People are becoming more and more aware and will demand this change.

“Why should we not throw plastic into the sea or leave it on beaches? Firstly, the item is taken out of the recycling system, and once it enters the sea it becomes non-recyclable due to contamination. Secondly, once the plastic does start to break down, it will become micro plastic or nano plastic and ends up being eaten by marine life. This ultimately means that plastic has reached the bottom of the food chain, which ends up in our bodies. Of course, this can also lead to entanglement of marine life, which will have a severe effect on our ecosystem and its and our survival.”

  • don't miss