Environment

From Seattle to Tirana, global fight against plastic pollution gathers steam

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July 20, 2018

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Published:

July 20, 2018

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From individual initiatives to cities and corporations banning plastic straws, the global anti-plastic movement is gaining momentum.

It was three years ago that Christine Figgener, marine biologist at Texas A&M University, posted a graphic video of a sea turtle in distress as her team extracted a plastic straw stuck in its nose. Little did she know that three years later the video would hit 31 million views on YouTube and be widely credited for galvanizing the global fight against plastic pollution.

Probably the most hailed recent announcement of a plastic straw phase-out came from Starbucks. On July 9, the US coffee company and coffeehouse giant announced it would cut out plastic straws at its locations worldwide – which by then will include Serbia – through 2020. Instead of plastic straws, Starbucks’ cold drinks will feature strawless lids, easier to recycle than plastic straws, which due to their size and light weight are often mechanically sorted out during the recycling process, ending up in landfills and waterways.

Less than two weeks later, Starbucks and global foodservice retailer McDonald’s, though competitors, teamed up to help develop a global recyclable and/or compostable cup solution, with a Challenge to kick off in September to invite innovators, entrepreneurs, industry experts, and recyclers to submit their ideas for the next generation of recyclable and/or compostable cups.

Seattle leads the way

Starbucks’ hometown Seattle seems to have kick-started the corporate drive to fight plastic pollution, informing food service businesses it was banning the use of plastic utensils, plastic straws, and plastic cocktail picks in the city effective July 1, advising them to offer straws and utensils made of materials such as paper and bamboo, but only upon request. Seattle is the first big US city to ban plastic straws, following in the footsteps of Miami Beach and several other towns.

According to a study published in 2015 in the journal Science, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste end up in oceans every year, and the quantity could multiply tenfold in the business-as-usual scenario, the media worldwide reported. That is the equivalent of placing five grocery bags full of plastic trash on every 30 cm of every nation’s coastline around the globe, Reuters reported.

German sportswear maker Adidas, which sold one million pairs of shoes made from ocean plastic in 2017, has meanwhile pledged to only use recycled plastic in its products by 2024.

SEE taking steps

In the South-East European (SEE) region, countries have also been stepping up the fight against plastic pollution. Albania recently banned lightweight plastic bags, after Macedonia prohibited their use at retail outlets and on other business premises back on January 1, 2009.

EU members Slovenia and Croatia will introduce compulsory charges on lightweight plastic bags on January 1, 2019, according to reports. In Serbia, four major retail chains have started charging plastic bags at cash registers so far.

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