[WATCH] Balloons will be banned from public events in strategy to eliminate single-use plastic

A new strategy is proposing a list of measures including increased excise duty on plastic carrier bags and restrictions on items like straws and cotton buds after 2021

Ballons will be banned from public events under a single-use plastics strategy being proposed by the government
Ballons will be banned from public events under a single-use plastics strategy being proposed by the government

Excise duty on plastic carrier bags will go up and the use of balloons and confetti at public events will be banned after 2020, under a new strategy to cut down on single-use plastics.

The strategy, includes 23 specific measures, is intended to bring about a “cultural and behavioral shift within society in terms of its attitude towards single-use plastic products” and was drawn up by the Environment and Resources Authority.

Speaking at the launch of the public consultation, Environment Minister Jose Herrera said that the strategy made Malta the first EU member state to have a single-use plastics policy.

“As a nation, we are appreciating more than ever, that we are directly changing the course of nature,” Herrera said, adding that this also affected people’s health.

Through the strategy, he said government would be introducing positive change. He said the intention was to form a broad coalition of stakeholders and to prepare the market for it to be able to embrace a reduction in single-use plastic.

The measures listed in the strategy directly targetted the types of plastic items outlined in the European Union had said were negatively impacting oceans, Herrera said.

He added that the consultation period will see the government enter into discussions with stakeholders on the proposed measures.

Michelle Piccinino, the executive director at Environment and Resources Authority, said the strategy aimed at encouraging other uses for single-use plastics before it is disposed of.

She said that while there was no prohibition of products, the market had already started to implement measures to reduce the amount of single-use plastic used.

The strategy, Piccinio said, identified a number of measures including, market restriction and prohibition, product design requirements, marking requirements, extended producer responsibility and incentives for customer voluntary schemes.

She said that for the strategy to bring about the desired results, the participation of stakeholders including, citizens, the government, retailers, importers, manufacturers, schools, catering establishments, events organisers and the tobacco industry would be essential 

Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri emphasised that single-use plastics, when not properly recycled, often end up in the sea to the determinant of fish and other wildlife.

He said the some 49% of marine litter consisted of single-use plastics discarded in the sea, while 27% came from fishing activity.

“To ensure that more fishermen continue fishing, we must assure that, in addition to incentives, that we ensure the sustainability of the fish in our seas,” Camilleri said.  

Fishermen, he said, often came across fish and turtles that would have gotten caught in ghost fishing lines or other plastic materials.

What are the measures being proposed?

According to the document, the strategies highlighted should not just be introduced as legislation, but should also be “followed up by further discussions with the various stakeholders” as well as form the basis for educational and awareness-raising campaigns.

Single-use plastics are products made from plastic which is not intended or designed to be used more than once over its lifespan.

While the amount of plastic used locally has increased substantially in recent years, the amount which is recycled has remained relatively stable. The country currently exports 30% of its treated plastic, with the majority of the remainder

The strategy includes 23 measures that are being proposed and which will be introduced over the next five years.

  • Excise duty on plastic carrier bags will be increased, while their distribution for free at point of sale will be prohibited.
  • Plastic writs bands at public events will also be restricted by 2020.
  • The use of balloons and plastic confetti will be prohibited at public events by 2020.
  • The use of plastic pizza lid support will be banned and replaced with a “dough ball baked in the middle of the pizza to hold up the lid”.
  • A voluntary scheme, to be introduced by 2022, promoting areas within supermarkets where bulk food can be bought without plastic packaging.
  • All PET (a type of plastic) beverage bottles will need to contain at least 25% recycled plastic by 2025, which will increase to 30% by 2030.
  • By 2024 only beverage containers that have caps and lids made of plastic attached to the container will be placed on the market.
  • A ‘return or refillable system’ as well as a reward scheme for detergent and toiletry containers will be launched by 2022.
  • A voluntary scheme to “promote the use of sustainable alternatives, reusable and refillable containers in hotels, hostels, guesthouses and holiday premises.
  • “Benefits” for all students who take reusable and refillable food containers and beverage cups when buying items from shops on campus.
  • The free distribution of plastic cups for beverages by coffee shops, cafeterias, bars and take-out shops will be restricted by 2025. Customers who take refillable cups with them will also be entitled to specific benefits.
  • Producers of a range of products, including balloons, packets and wrappers and food and beverage containers will have to cover the cost of their correction from public collection systems, as well as the cleaning up of litter and raising awareness.
  • Targeted sanitary items, wet wipes, tobacco products and cups for beverages must will need to carry a legible mark on their packaging to inform consumers on waste management options.
  • The placement on the market of lollipop sticks, sticks to support balloons, cotton bud sticks, straws, cutlery, containers made of expanded polystyrene, kebab sticks, toothpicks, plates and beverage stirrers will be restricted after 2021.
  • The use of polystyrene in fishing gear should be restricted and substituted by re-usable plastic floats or any other suitable material by 2022.
  • All coastal areas, camping sites, picnic areas and touristic areas will have to be equipped with bins for the separate collection of waste by 2020.

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