#Noplastic Ukraine: Would plastic bags ban help save environment?

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

Verkhovna Rada has voted for the bill "On limiting the turnover of plastic bags in Ukraine" in the first reading
13:32, 20 November 2019

In Ukraine, plastic bags will disappear from the shelves at the cash registers soon. This will happen if the Verkhovna Rada, which passed in the first reading the bill "On limiting the turnover of plastic bags in Ukraine," votes for it in the second reading and it is be signed by the president. Given the proximity to power of the initiators of the document, the likelihood of such a development is very high. The new bill is unlikely to help radically improve the environmental situation in the country.

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About 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually around the world. Since 1950, almost 9 billion tons have been accumulated in the world, only 9% of which have been processed. The rest was either burned or sent to landfills - or simply left to wallow. According to experts, by 2050 the total amount of unprocessed plastic waste in the world will be about 12 billion tons. The problem of plastic waste requires an increasingly urgent solution because the smallest particles of plastic are distributed along rivers, lakes, and groundwater. They cause harm to marine life, but can also enter the human body through drinking water. Researchers have identified 275 species of particles collected on the beaches and carrying more than 400 varieties of microbes, including those that cause all kinds of infections.

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The garbage spot discovered in the Pacific Ocean back in the 1980s has already surpassed France in area, the contaminated site occupies more than 1.6 million square meters, reports Scientific Reports. The total mass of plastic particles on the "garbage island" reaches 87 thousand tons. Moreover, in general, if in the 1970s the content of plastic, polyethylene, and polypropylene in the World Ocean was estimated at 400 g / km sq, In 2015, it reached 1230 g / km sq. About 75% are in large fragments, but the number of small particles is estimated at more than a trillion.

In the European Union, legal relations in the field of reducing the negative impact of plastic are regulated by legislation from the sphere of effective packaging management and waste management. In the European Union, the issue of plastic bags is also part of the Directive on packaging and packaging waste, rather than a separate law, said Anna Tarantsova, a specialist in corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, packaging waste management.

According to statistics, member countries of the European Union use more than 800 thousand tons of disposable plastic bags annually. But if, thanks to restrictions, an EU resident uses an average of 90 packages a year, in Ukraine this figure is 500 packages that are thrown into the trash. Due to the lack of separate collection of garbage, sorting lines and processing facilities in Ukraine, given the fact that most of the garbage is taken to landfills, most of which are overcrowded and exceeded their service life, as well as to landfills, the situation with our country contaminated with polyethylene is really catastrophic.

Related: More than 200 kg of amber of $18,000 detained in Zakarpattia region

Ukraine’s way to resolve the problem

In mid-November, Verkhovna Rada adopted bill No. 2051-1 "On restricting the circulation of plastic bags in Ukraine" in the first reading. From January 1, 2022, the bill prohibits distribution in retail facilities (a store, a pavilion, a kiosk, a tent, a tray, a counter, a locker, a goods warehouse, a warehouse store, a car shop, delivery, etc) and restaurant facilities for light (from 15 to 50 micrometers) and ultralight bags (up to 15 micrometers), as well as oxo-degradable bags (plastic bags, which include polyethylene and metal-based catalyst additives, which are added to plastic bags to accelerate decomposition under the influence of oxygen and ultraviolet flying to separate small fragments (microplastics), except for “T-shirt plastic bags” intended for packing and transporting fresh fish, meat and products from them, ice, which are distributed in retail stores as primary packaging.

Rethink public organization is the inspector and main initiator of the bill: four co-founders and one member of this organization are listed as authors of the bill. Olena Koltyk, the advisor to the Minister of Energy and the Environment Oleksiy Orzhel, is one of the co-founders. She served as the head of the Ukrainian Renewable Energy Association.

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How plastic bags users would be punished

If the bill is adopted in its current form, business entities that distribute packages bypassing the norms of the bill will be fined from 100 to 200 tax-free minimums (70-140 USD), and if the same violation is repeated within three years, a fine in the amount of 200 to 500 minimums (140-350 USD). Those who distribute packages with oxoadditives under the guise of a biodegradable package will be fined from 100 to 250 minimums (70-175 USD), and for repeated committing the same violation for three years, a fine of 250 to 500 minimums will be imposed (175-350 UAH). It is planned that the State Food and Beverage Service would monitor compliance with the law and levy fines. Earlier, experts noted that the current staff of the service is not enough even to carry out current tasks, so it will not be easy for her to monitor compliance with new requirements in accordance with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).

According to the results of a study conducted by the State Enterprise Ukrmetrteststandart, the most widespread in Ukraine are packages with thicknesses from 10 microns to 50 microns. In particular, ATB Market distributed “T-shirt plastic bags” with 10.2 microns thick, Good Wine – with 23.8 micron, Silpo –with 29.4 microns, METRO Cash & Carry Ukraine – 34,7 microns, NOVUS - 42.9 microns.

METRO Cash & Carry Ukraine, as part of a large international retailer, METRO AG, supports global environmental trends. “We understand and accept all responsibility to the world community for the impact that daily use of plastic has on the planet,” Olesya Olenytska, director of cooperation with government authorities and public relations at METRO Cash & Carry Ukraine, said. She adds that one of the key strategic objectives of METRO AG is to reduce plastic waste by 80% by 2020, which is mandatory for implementation in each country of presence, including Ukraine.

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In April 2019, ATB-Market Company switched to the implementation of packages with biodegradable additives. The company began testing this technology at the end of 2018 in a limited number of stores and today is fully prepared to replicate this environmental initiative to all stores in the network. Also, in May 2019, the company launched a pilot project to introduce paper bags for purchases.

Fewer burdens on the environment - more on the consumer’s wallet?

Ukrainian buyers will pay for saving the planet from his own wallet. In particular, the cost of packages with biodegradable additives in stores of the ATB retail chain is on average 10% higher than the price of a regular package, which is due to the cost of the additive itself. The cost of an eco-bag is 0,82 USD (large) and 0,53 USD (small). A small thin plastic bag in Novus costs only 0,08 USD, then a branded one (with thicker walls) costs 0,12 USD.

An eco-bag costs 1,45 USD. On the other hand, if the bag is basically a one-time item, then the bag can be used for a long time.

A paper bag (which can be used as an alternative to free “T-shirt plastic bags”) in Auchan costs 0,33 USD.

In addition, as an alternative, refillable cans can be used: Rethink also launched a startup to tailor them (ReBag - costing 1,45-1,65 USD per item).

The world has an alternative to traditional packages, they might dissolve in hot water in a few minutes.

With a bulk order on Alibaba, their cost is not so much different from the cost of "harmful" packages.

Related: France states climatic and environmental emergency

Typically, such packages are made from starches (including corn and cellulose). They are safe for the environment, as they decompose even in-home compost pits. In Ukraine, there is capacity for the production of biodegradable bags, but there is no demand for them (due to competition with cheap “T-shirt plastic bags,” half of which are made in the shade, it is banal in the garages). "The ban on the distribution of conventional plastic bags, in addition to a positive environmental impact, will stimulate demand for the production of biodegradable bags, which will make them cheaper for the end-user," the explanatory note to the bill banning the distribution of bags thinner than 50 microns says.

Not all "harmful" packages will be banned

In general, the proposed initiative is positive, but globally it will not solve the problem. For this, it will be necessary to radically change the approaches to the processes, which without raising the quality standards and living standards will not happen. In particular, even if the bill, supported in the first reading, enters into force, it will not prohibit garbage bags thinner than 50 microns, it will not limit the use of t-shirt bags thinner than 15 microns at the points of spontaneous trade, in markets, in addition, for cleaning animal feces in them.

The legislative initiative will not affect cellophane for furniture and toys.

The requirements of the penitentiary system institutions that do not accept transfers in factory packaging (tea/coffee should be poured into T-shirts, cigarettes should be transferred without factory candy wrappers) should be also changed.

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It is also interesting why the issue of prohibition (restriction) of the production of packages with oxoadditives and their import into Ukraine remained outside the scope of project regulation, the expert says. The bill only proposes to prohibit the distribution of such packages in retail. At 99% they consist of ordinary polyethylene and only 1% is an admixture based on metals, which accelerates the decomposition of the package under the influence of oxygen and sunlight into small fragments - microplastic. These tiny particles of plastic will forever remain in the soil and water. Together with water and food, they can enter the body of people and animals. Such packages have a mark of TDPA or D2W.

Ecologist, Ph.D. in economic sciences, director of the Holosiivsky National Nature Park Vyacheslav Potapenko notes: “I lived back when the sausage was wrapped in paper in the deli a wrapper - even on the third day it was green and deteriorated. It cannot be compared with modern sausage, which, thanks to packaging and preservatives, can be stored for years. There was no vacuum packaging, so milk turned sour on the second day.” The expert states that at the global level, the problem of cheap plastic pollution is usually manifested in poor countries of the Third World, with a low-income level and an underdeveloped economy.

In order to solve the problem, we shouldn’t implement selective regulation of the turnover of certain types of packaging, as proposed in the adopted bill but create a holistic system of handling materials for packaging. The proposed changes are fragmentary; they do not comply with the principles of systematic legislation, do not comprehensively address the issue of packaging waste management and do not take into account the provisions of EU law. The bill will not ensure the proper fulfillment of Ukraine’s obligations under the Association Agreement.


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