“The Mediterranean Sea is a dark blue gem, one of the most beautiful seas in the world, but also faces serious pollution.” Arabella Ross is a volunteer diver on the Aegean Sea in Greece. He and his colleagues have been working on the removal of undersea debris for years.” Plastic bags are wrapped around the reefs under the sea, and some even spread tens of meters and hundreds of meters. Such scenes have been seen in more and more places. Rose was shocked and heartbroken, believing that “we really should do something to the earth and the ocean”.
Earlier this year, the Greek Ministry of Tourism launched an activity called “Holy Island Without Plastics”. The event aims to make the Greek resort Santorini the first “plastic-free island” in the Cyclades Islands and extend the concept of “plastic-free” to all the islands of the Cyclades and the Aegean Islands as the “core island”. This is a microcosm of Greece’s advocacy of the concept of “plastic-free” in recent years. Nowadays, “plastic-free” public service advertisements can be seen everywhere in Greece’s major ports, airports, rail transit, bus stations, commercial beaches and ships.
According to the 2019 data of WWF, Greece produces about 700,000 tons of plastic waste every year. Of these, about 11,500 tons were discharged into Greek waters. According to analysis, Greece’s low utilization rate of garbage classification and recycling is an important reason for exacerbating plastic pollution.
Earlier, the European Commission issued a ban requiring member states to ban the use of 10 disposable plastic products until 2021. Under this policy framework, Greece actively promotes legislation and plans to phase out the use of disposable plastic products by 2020. The Greek government actively calls for the private sector, non-governmental organizations and the people to strengthen cooperation, and calls on all Greeks to work together to achieve the goal of “plastic-free”.
The Greek government has made it a priority to raise the cost of plastic products. In 2019, the price of each plastic bag in Greece increased by 125%, and the proceeds from the sale of plastic bags were handed over to the Greek Recycling Agency for environmental protection projects. This initiative is immediate. According to a survey released by the Greek Retail Consumer Goods Research Institute in February this year, the use of disposable plastic bags in Greek supermarkets fell by 98.6% in 2019, a decrease of 1.75 billion compared with 2017. Meanwhile, Greeks have purchased more than 17 million reusable eco-friendly bags, and the distribution of biodegradable plastic bags has soared to 37 million in 2019.
At the call of the government, Greek educational institutions, private enterprises and social welfare organizations are widely involved in the “plastic-free” operation. The famous coffee bar 360° in Monastirage Square in Athens and the environmental organization “Aegean Rebreathing” launched an initiative six months ago, calling on shops and restaurants around the square to phase out the use of disposable plastic products and turn the square into a “plastic-free zone”. Nowadays, walking in Monastirachi Square, disposable plastic products are hard to find, and more and more blocks have joined the ranks of “plastic-free”.
“The consumption of disposable plastic straws and plastic coffee caps in Greek coffee shops is huge, and the government is very supportive of such publicity initiatives among the people.” Aphlamides, deputy mayor of Athens, said that the people are the main body of plastic restriction. Only when the concept of environmental protection is deeply rooted in people’s hearts can the common goal of “plastic-free” be achieved.
Sarellax, head of Aegean Rebreathing, said: “Shops and restaurants need to be better prepared for plastic restrictions. Looking forward to cheap plastic alternatives soon.” Marina Papadakis, head of the Greek Environment Department, said: “We are still working hard. In the future, Greece will continue to promote recyclable dustbins in restaurants, markets, supermarkets and other areas where people are concentrated to raise people’s awareness of garbage classification. At the same time, the government is actively working with all parties to accelerate the introduction of alternatives to plastic products.
After dinner, a cup of coffee has become the daily habit of many Koreans. The resulting single-use plastic pollution such as plastic cups and straws brings a great burden to South Korea’s environmental governance. In order to reduce the plastic waste generated by coffee shops, the South Korean government banned the use of disposable plastic cups in-store stores in August 2018. Illegal merchants will be fined up to 2 million won (about 166 won) of 1 yuan. In response to the government’s environmental protection policy, some coffee chain brands provide price concessions to customers with their own cups, and reduce the use of plastic products in all links by using cups that do not need straws, replacing plastic straws with paper straws, and replacing plastic umbrella sleeves with dehumidifying dryers in rainy days.
In recent years, the strength and scope of South Korea’s plastic restriction measures have gradually increased. In 2019, South Korea upgraded the “plastic restriction order” again, stipulating that 2,000 large stores and 11,000 supermarkets with an area of more than 165 square meters shall not provide disposable free plastic bags. In addition to plastic bags for goods such as fish and meat, stores and supermarkets can only provide customers with metering garbage bags, environmentally friendly shopping bags, etc. Merchants who violate the regulations will face fines of up to 3 million won. In addition, manufacturers of five kinds of plastic products, such as dry cleaners and transportation packaging plastics, umbrella plastic sleeves, disposable plastic gloves, and food preservation film, are also required to assume more responsibility for the recycling of waste plastics. According to the South Korean government’s plan to reduce the use of disposable plastic products, convenience stores and cake shops will also ban the use of plastic bags from 2022. Starting from 2030, all industries except in special circumstances have banned the supply of plastic bags to achieve the goal of a comprehensive “no plastics”.
In order to form a good social atmosphere, the public sector in South Korea has taken the lead in eliminating the use of disposable plastic products. Since January 2019, the office building of the Seoul Municipal Government has banned staff and citizens from carrying disposable plastic products into it, and is committed to building a “non-disposable plastic products” office building. Seoul also focuses on public organizations to guide citizens to gradually change their living habits. Five resource recycling captains are elected every year in each district to carry out education and awareness-raising activities on the reduction of the use of disposable plastic products and garbage sorting and recycling. Seoul has also established a comprehensive experience space “New Live Square”. Through various forms of exhibitions, experiences and other activities, environmental protection education is carried out for young people, and people are inspired to recycle waste through redesign and transformation to achieve the purpose of saving resources and protecting the environment.
With the rapid development of the e-commerce industry, the volume of express logistics in South Korea has increased significantly. In order to reduce the garbage generated by express packaging, some logistics companies began to use plastic-free packaging, including replacing bubble plastic film with grid shockproof paper, filling the gap part with expansion material made of recycled paper, and replacing plastic tape with paper tape.
Nowadays, it has become the life consciousness of many Koreans to carry environmentally friendly shopping bags with them when going to supermarkets and not to use disposable plastic cups and plastic straws in coffee shops. More and more South Korean people are beginning to move towards a “plastic-free life”, sharing their experience on social media on how to avoid using disposable plastic products, hoping to drive more people to practice the concept of environmental protection in every bit of life and promote the formation of an environmentally friendly consumption trend in the whole society.
In March 2019, the European Union issued a ban on the use of 10 major disposable plastic products such as plastic tableware, straws, plastic bags, food packaging, cotton swabs, etc., and planned to completely ban the use of disposable plastic products by 2021. Under the EU policy framework, Belgium further strengthens the control of the use of disposable plastic products. In July 2019, Brussels, the capital, banned the use of disposable plastic products in public activities, and violators would face fines and other administrative penalties. Earlier this year, the Brussels municipal government completely banned the use of any plastic shopping bags in stores, and plastic bags made of organic materials were no exception.
As the main consumer place of disposable plastic products, major supermarkets have taken restrictive measures. In October this year, Carrefour, a supermarket chain, said it would no longer sell disposable plastic bags to customers and planned to achieve 100% recyclability of all product packaging by 2025. Celine Stamboli, the public relations manager of Carrefour, told our reporter that since 2019, Carrefour supermarkets in Belgium have taken a series of measures: in April 2019, stop selling disposable straws, cups and tableware and replace them with biodegradable products; in the first half of 2019 , gradually reduce the use of disposable plastic bags and replace them with high-strength packaging paper bags and organic cotton bags. Affected by these positive measures, Carrefour’s total consumption of plastic products in Belgium decreased by about 1,942 tons in 2020, and a recoverable rate of 96% of its own brand packaging has been achieved.
The Federation of Retail in Flanders Belgium issued a statement saying that 90% of beverage packaging will be guaranteed to meet the recycling standard by 2022 and that all packaging can be reused or recycled by 2025.
In order to avoid the inconvenience caused to consumers by the sudden suspension of shopping bags, in April 2019, while announcing the suspension of all disposable plastic bags, Gao Lehui, a large supermarket chain in Belgium, specially designed a new environmentally friendly shopping bag that can be used 100 times repeatedly, and gave five to each customer free of charge. Christopher Dehanshutel, sales manager of Gallaudet, said: “We further optimize the solution based on the previous pilot to protect the environment while ensuring the convenience of customers’ shopping. At present, Gao Lehui can reduce the use of about 150 million disposable plastic bags every year.
According to statistics, plastic waste accounted for 2% of the total waste in Belgium in 2018, reaching 610,000 tons. The analysis believes that restricting the use of disposable plastic products is only the beginning. To fundamentally solve the problem of plastic pollution, the government and enterprises also need to formulate comprehensive measures in product design, green public procurement and other relevant laws and regulations in the future.
Stamboli said that in order to make it easier for customers to accept the concept of environmental protection, Carrefour invited many well-known local artists to add fashionable and beautiful designs to the eco-friendly shopping bags, so that the bags are not only suitable for supermarket shopping, but also for other social occasions. In addition, Carrefour has designed an environmentally friendly shopping bag that uses marine garbage recycling, and promotes the concept of environmental protection through exquisite paintings on the bag.