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Micro plastics banned by the EU.

Saturday 30th September 2023.

In the year 2020, every Portuguese citizen produced on average some 40 kg of plastic packaging waste. Across the EU, this places Portugal at the top of this particular ranking. If you look at an infographics published by Statista, only Ireland produces more waste per inhabitant (62 kg), followed by Hungary (47 kg), Germany (40 kg) and Estonia (40 kg), at a par with Portugal. According to the Eurostat data, Greece, Cyprus and Croatia produce the least plastic waste.

On a global scale, dealing with waste is one of the most important environmental issues – and plastic waste, which hardly decomposes at all, or only very slowly, is taking ever more centre stage: ten to 20 years is the time a shopping bag needs to completely decompose in the sea. The situation is even more drastic with PET bottles: it takes around 450 years for plastic bottles to decompose in the water and to sink to the bottom of the sea, in the shape of micro plastics.

Plastic waste that isn’t disposed of properly or recycled will often reach the global seas through rivers and other waterways. Rivers in Africa and Asia in particular show a high density of plastic waste. But Portuguese rivers too flush thousands of kilos into the sea, year on year. Which is why every year so many marine animals perish, due to plastic waste in the oceans and along the beaches of the country. At a global level, a high percentage of badly disposed plastics contributes to the constantly increasing amounts of plastic waste in the seas.

According to Eurostat, packaging waste produced in a member state is defined as the quantity of packaging that was circulating that same year. Following the Eurostat definition, „packaging“ includes all products made of materials of any kind (in this case plastics), used for storage, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of goods, from the raw material to the finished product, from the maker to the user or customer. Packaging also includes „single-use items“ used for the same purpose.

Talking about micro plastics: the European Union is in the process of banning the sale of a broad variety of micro plastics, step by step. In the future, new rules made by the EU Commission will ban the sale of micro plastics, as well as of products where micro plastics were added, and which are released during use. This is the gist of a communication released on Monday by the Brussels authority. According to the information available, the ban also applies to granulate used in sports facilities, cosmetics including peelings or glitter, as well as toys and pesticides/herbicides. The measures are slated to be implemented in stagesl: the ban of micro pearls and loose glitter for instance is meant to become law from 15 October onwards, in other cases the ban on sales is scheduled to take effect gradually over the coming years.


Uwe Heitkamp (62)

trained TV journalist, book author and hobby botanist, father of two grown-up children, knows Portugal for 30 years, founder of ECO123. Translations: Dina Adão, John Elliot, Ruth Correia, Patrícia Lara, Kathleen Becker

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