Friday, February 3, 2023

Slow end of single use plastic

Plastic doesn’t die, even when exposed against ropes, so regenerates itself. The restrictions imposed by the Waste Law (2022) on certain single-use plastics are beginning to be felt by citizens; But cowards. These items are being replaced by similarly short-lived products, which can thwart efforts to reduce the amount of waste.

The legal ban on single-use plastics focuses on a dozen everyday items, indicated by a community directive on causing environmental damage. The need for intervention stems from the risks of poor management and its persistence in the natural environment, which causes serious and dangerous marine pollution, among other effects.

“The main brands change single-use products for alternative solutions because citizens request it too,” says Isaac Perare, director of the Agència de Residus de Catalunya. “With few exceptions, the application of the law is very timid,” says Rosa Garcia, director of the Rezero Foundation, dedicated to waste prevention. “We don’t see real change,” says Julio Barea of ​​Greenpeace.

Manufacturers of single-use plastics have tried to replace these products and utensils with other reusable or compostable (similar to organic matter) or biodegradable, made from natural fibers (corn starch, sugarcane, cardboard, wood…), less introduced changes for influence. But is the law being enforced? Is it enough?



straws and other

first change and stock

Waste legislation bans single-use plastic drink straws, cotton swabs and drink stirrers. In shops and other establishments (bars, cafeterias…) other straws made of cardboard or non-plastic materials (corn starch) have begun to be substituted. Wooden drink stirrers are also starting to appear. However, “the substitution of plastic straws and stirrers for cardboard and wood has not yet become widespread, and it remains a black spot in restoration,” says Rosa Garcia.

However, the reality is that some of these plastic products that should be phased out continue to appear on supermarket shelves, in markets or in commercial establishments.


Single-use plastic straws (left) are starting to be made from cardboard and other biodegradable materials (right)

Javier Cervera

“Market entry restrictions are one thing and storage is another. For this reason, there may be old products that are marketed because they are in stock”, Angela, Director of Technical and Environmental Affairs of the Spanish Association of Plastics Manufacturers (ANAP) Explain Osma. The law has set a date to stop manufacturing them, but has not stopped their use. Osma says that “the legislation has only recently been approved” and that it is “too early to see anything on a practical level.”

He also pointed out that some plastics cannot be replaced as alternative materials cause allergic reactions.

white cork tray

disappeared from fast food restaurant

As established by law, food trays made of foamy-looking expanded polystyrene (white cork) previously used for food for immediate consumption (in fast food restaurants) and glasses made of the same material are practically have disappeared.

Instead of these polystyrene trays, traditional plastic (something that is not prohibited by law) and paper and cardboard are being used.

Crockery (plates, cutlery…)

reusable and compostable plastic utensils

Manufacturers are distributing single-use plastic tableware (plates, spoons, forks and knives), which are also prohibited by law.

Cutlery is mainly being replaced by reusable plastic materials. In addition, plastics derived from natural fibers are being used. such as corn starch or sugar cane, which allows manufacturers – in the latter case – to present them as “compostable” or “biodegradable”.


Vegetable fiber (sugarcane) or “reusable” plastic dishes appear on the market

Javier Cervera

Most single-use tableware tends to be labeled “reusable” (“I’ve had more than 7 lives”) and “resistant” with certifications usually visible on the packaging (plastic, and single-use). .

Manufacturers seek to legitimize the presence of these traditional plastics with the argument that they can be used five, ten or more times. A UNE standard protects it, Angela tells Osma (anap) to remember that they can withstand many washings in the dishwasher.

appearance and illusion

reusable with limitations

However, Anna Peña, director of communications for Rezero, believes it is “excessive” and a distortion of language to call these plastic tableware reusable. Until now – in the food sector – an article or item was considered reusable if it could be washed or used indefinitely or because it had a high wear resistance. But to say now that it can be reused many times, but in a limited way, seems contradictory, he says.

Is the West Law being mocked or its meaning being distorted with image laundering strategies? The result is that plastic plates, spoons or forks that call themselves “reusable” are arriving on the market with an appearance very similar to traditional single-use utensils, and co-occuring on market shelves with the latter. The existence (remnants of stocks? ), which, together with the proliferation of stamps and certificates, “contributes to the creation of confusion among citizens,” condemns Garcia.


strategies to reduce them

The rules require a 50% reduction in single-use plastic cups by 2026 (compared to 2020) and a 70% reduction in 2030 compared to 2022.

Manufacturers are implementing several strategies: They have begun to replace single-use plastic cups with cardboard ones with an inner plastic lining (because cardboard just gets wet and will go to waste) or natural fibers. The label “reusable” appears for other resistant ones as well.


From 100% plastic cups to cardboard cups but with a plastic inner layer, Javier Cervera

mandatory label

Obligation to indicate “Contains plastic”

The law requires it to report that some products contain plastic. And in fact, we’re already starting to see products that carry this identification: for example, in tobacco packets (filters contain plastic) or in paper/cardboard cups.

These items include a “contains plastic” label or a pictograph of a turtle next to a piece of plastic.

And the same is the case with wet wipes, compresses or tampons intended for hygiene, which can be harmful to the environment (and should be avoided being flushed down the toilet) and must be managed properly, Rezero Foundation spokespeople indicated.


Compostable solutions are not valid for all uses

Major brands have introduced changes to replace products with other compostables (to be treated into organic material fractions) or biodegradable.

However, a report by the Razero Foundation on bioplastics cautions that the term “biodegradable” or “compostable” is a vague and precise definition to refer to these plastics (whether of biological or fossil origin).

“Biodegradable” will depend on the time it degrades and “compostable” can only be if some very specific conditions (temperature, residence time…) are met, which is only when It is treated as waste. facilities.

For this reason, products marked as “biodegradable” or “compostable” if they end up in the environment due to poor management, “produce the same effect as any other conventional plastic”, Report highlighted.

These plastics released into the natural environment behave like fossil plastics, take a long time to break down, pollute beaches and oceans. The fact that it is potentially compostable does not mean that it is necessarily being composted,” warns Carlos Arribas, an expert at Ecologistas en Accion.

trash bag

Not valid in all uses

Isaac Perare specifies that compostable plastics can “help”, but clarifies that they are not the ideal choice in all applications. In this sense, he defends that they are ideal for compostable plastic bags for the collection of organic fractions (which are sold for this purpose) or those that are given for purchase. In fact, the ban on single-use (handle) plastic bags has flooded the market for compostable and biodegradable bags.

Agència de Residus insists that these bags must go in the brown containers (and not the yellow ones). “We have empirical demonstrations that compostable material becomes part of the compost generated from management at waste treatment plants. Fertilizer Debe ir kender maron”, insists Perare.

short life product

better reuse

“Swapping a conventional plastic product for a biodegradable version of it is by no means the right environmental solution,” says Perare.

“The most important thing is reuse,” he says. “The industry has started to use alternative materials, but the problem is that short-lived products continue to be misused, practically disposable,” says Rosa Garcia, believing that low-cost products with a fleeting appearance will be re-purposed. : Do not invite to be used and ends up in the immediate dustbin.

“There are calls to recycle, but policies and initiatives to reuse are rare,” he adds.

read this also

UK Act

Britain will ban single-use plastic cutlery and plates from October this year.
The ban will include all plastic cutlery available in any take-out business, restaurant or retail establishment, as well as certain types of Styrofoam food containers. The UK uses 2.7 billion plastic cutlery a year, as well as 721 million plates, but only recycles 10 per cent of this.

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