For EU state members, 4 months remain to approve the transposition of the (EU) Directive 2015/720, the directive adopted by the European Parliament and Council on 29 April 2015 for the reduction of disposable plastic bags. However, deadlines approach, and the Spanish State has not yet taken any action, whereas some of our neighbors, such as Italy and France, have already put the directive into effect.
Each year Europe uses more than 100 billion bags, and in the last ten years, the consumption of this object has been said to have increased by 47%. According to Cicloplast in Spain, an organization that focuses on the recycling of plastics, each citizen consumes an average of 238 plastic bags–more than 97,000 tons—of which only 10% are recycled. In fact, the majority of bags end up in landfills, incinerators, or as waste in aquatic environments*. Bags are everyday objects with a very short half-life estimated at about 12 minutes. However, their environmental cost is very high: they are derived from petroleum, they consume water and energy in their production and distribution, and they remain in the environment for centuries. Don’t forget the direct effects they have on the marine life: it is estimated that they are the cause of death of about 100,000 marine mammals each year.
Currently, the State Waste Prevention Program is limited to recommending to local administrations that they make voluntary agreements and actions of public awareness. On the other hand, the State Plan Waste Management Framework refers to the transposition of the European Directive.
At the Balearic Island level, Formentera has been driving the regulation on plastic bags with a vigorous entry of banning plastic bags (including oxo-biodegradables) since 1 January 2014 and, in the case of distributing biodegradable bags, making it mandatory for establishments to charge a minimum price of 10 cents per biodegradable bag.
With the occasion of International Plastic Bag Free Day on 3 July, a celebration promoted by the Foundation of Waste Prevention and Consumption, environmental groups ask the Balearic Government and the parliamentary groups to promote an incisive legislation about the banning of disposable plastic bags, a unique opportunity in the face of the future approval of the Balearic Waste Law.
A banning is the most effective measure to meet the objectives of the European Directive for the reduction of disposable plastic bags. Additionally, governments have to implement other complementary measures: policies of support for merchants to facilitate and reward good work,the promotion of using reusable bags, preferribly made with organic fabric, and the elimination of plastic bags in supermarkets for the purchase of fruit, vegetables and other items.
A the level of other autonomous communities, Catalonia is pending legislation that will prohibit the free distribution of plastic bags to all establishments of any commercial activity.
If we want to move toward the strategy of “Europa 2020”, *the Balearic Islands have to make efficient use of their resources and combat the littering of waste in the environment, which often ends up in the sea. The determined reduction of plastic bag consumption would help to acheive this goal.