Plastic-wrapped products will be banned in Spain beginning 2023, according to a decree being drafted by the Ministry for Ecological Transition.
A ministry spokesperson said that Spain wants to fight the overuse of packing in the most effective way, adding that plastic pollution "has exceeded all limits."
Plastic packaging in Spain alone generates 1.6 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, with less than half of it being recycled.
Plastic waste used to wrap fruits and vegetables has been opposed by environmental groups both in Spain and abroad. Spain's move, in particular, follows that of the French legislation, which will go into effect beginning January 2022.
The Spanish decree, however, will follow the French law in only banning plastic wrap for portions that weigh under 1.5 kilograms. Additionally, the draft decree is also considering measures that will help discourage the use of plastic water bottles by encouraging the installation of public drinking fountains and the promotion of other alternatives. It may also begin reducing the number of plastic cups being passed out at public events beginning in 2023. Overall, it is set to reduce the number of plastic bottles by 50 percent by 2030 and ensuring that 100 percent of packaging becomes recyclable.
Spain's Ministry for Ecological Transition has already met with business leaders and green groups to discuss the new measures.
Julio Bare of Greenpeace said that the group approved of the plastic wrap ban, but it is still waiting to see how it would be applied. Overall, Barea said that the government has not yet done enough to reduce plastic pollution. "We drink plastic, we eat plastic and we breathe plastic," he said. (Related: Scientist develops biodegradable, edible non-plastic bags to halt the continued plastic pollution of the world.)
Spain's new decree is in line with recommendations made by a paper published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, which found microplastic contamination along the entire Spanish coast. The paper outlined steps that international and local governments, businesses and individuals could take to reduce waste.
"In our opinion, the solution goes beyond measures such as recycling or reuse, and unquestionably involves limiting the use of plastics, mainly single-use plastics, and also drastically reducing their production globally," the authors wrote.
One of the issues of the decree is the implementation of a system of deposit and return for packaging, which mirrors systems in other EU countries. In Spain, there is a dispute between environmental organizations that support the model and Ecoembes, the company in charge of managing most domestic packaging, which is fighting the implementation of the ban.
Head of the waste-research department at Ecologists in Action, Carlos Arribas explains that the ministry is open to the possibility of eventually introducing this system, which involves consumers leaving a few cents in deposit for each container they use, which they can get back upon its return. The text of the bill still remains ambiguous on the subject.
The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos agreed on a joint amendment in parliament to serve as a guide to what the coalition intends to do: the deposit and return system will only be implemented if separate collection objectives for plastic bottles are not met.
As it should, at least 70 percent of the weight of packaging introduced in the market should be collected for recycling by 2023. By 2027, the figure should reach 85 percent. Only if these goals are not met, should the deposit and return system be introduced.
However, environmentalists claim that the system that is being used to count the percentage of recovered packaging is not reliable. "We expect that the European Commission will unify the way in which this is counted," Arribas said.
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