This OpenCoesione data card is dedicated to projects of cohesion policy specifically aimed at reducing the production of plastic and of plastic waste in the environment in conjunction the Plastic Free July® initiative being promoted by the Plastic Free Foundation, which works towards achieving a world that is free from plastic waste. The initiative began in 2011 and, over the years, has become a movement that, in 2022, engaged more than 140 million people around the world. “If you want to go fast, go along; if you want to go far, go together,” states one of the foundation’s mottos, pointing to their commitment to engaging with business, government and the public at large.
One of the examples cited in the Impact Report 2022 of the Plastic Free Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Australia, comes out of Italy, where a leading pasta company has abandoned the use of plastic packaging, thereby reducing plastic use by about 126,000 kilograms.
In recent years, the European Commission has developed a plastics action plan as part of a package dedicated to the circular economy. A key aspect of this strategy is Directive (EU) 2019/904 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment.
This directive makes specific reference to the “oxo-degradable” plastic used in single-use packaging, which is a plastic that contains additives that, by way of oxidation, cause the plastic to break up and chemically decompose. The problem to be faced is a serious one. In the EU, 80-85% of all waste washing up on beaches is plastic. Of this waste, single-use plastic accounts for 50%, while 27% is related to fishing.
As stated in the directive, “Single-use plastic products include a diverse range of commonly used fast-moving consumer products that are discarded after having been used once for the purpose for which they were provided, are rarely recycled, and are prone to becoming litter. A significant proportion of the fishing gear placed on the market is not collected for treatment. Single-use plastic products and fishing gear containing plastic are therefore a particularly serious problem in the context of marine litter, pose a severe risk to marine ecosystems, to biodiversity and to human health and damage activities such as tourism, fisheries and shipping.”
According to European Commission estimates, the single-use plastic products to which the provisions of Directive 2019/904 refer account for roughly 86% of the single-use plastic products that end up on beaches in the EU.
Some of the single-use plastic products that most frequently end up on beaches in the European Union are tobacco filters that contain plastic and the plastic caps and lids used for beverages. The urgent need for radical steps such as those being taken by the European Commission, which has prohibited the distribution of single-use plastic plates, tableware, straws, cotton swabs and balloon sticks, as well as styrofoam cups and food and beverage containers and all products made from oxo-degradable plastic, is also supported by the latest Global Plastic Outlook published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Analysing forecasts for 2060, we see that “[g]lobal plastics use is projected to nearly triple from 2019 levels, driven by economic and population growth”, taking the use of plastic from 460 million metric tonnes in 2019 to 1231 million by 2060. At the same time, “[p]lastic leakage to the environment is projected to double to 44 million tonnes (Mt) a year, exacerbating environmental and health impacts. Meanwhile, the stocks of accumulated plastics in rivers and oceans is projected to more than triple, from 140 Mt in 2019 to 493 Mt in 2060.”