DRS and EPR most effective policy measures to tackle plastic waste in the Mediterranean

A deposit return scheme (DRS) and extended producer responsibility (EPR) have been found to be the most effective policy measures to tackle single-use plastic waste in the Mediterranean region.

Research commissioned by UN Environment, under the Mediterranean Action Plan, and carried out by Eunomia Research and Consulting, concluded that policy measures that focus on end-of-life management of containers, bottles and straws will ultimately help reduce plastic litter in the region.

As part of its research, Eunomia developed an Information Document on this kind of waste in Egypt, Morocco, Montenegro and Greece in collaboration with a Regional Activity Centre (RAC) through the Mediterranean Trust Fund.

Eunomia made a number of policy recommendations for the region that will help reduce plastic waste litter and boost employment and the economy.

The recommendations included focusing on improving waste collection and separation, particularly along coastal areas and waterways, banning single-use plastic items and introducing levies on other single-use non-plastic items, implementing a DRS for beverage containers, and maximising sorting plastics from residual waste.

The guidelines will be put forward for adoption at the Barcelona Convention COP22 meeting in December 2021.

The environmental consultant found that a DRS would prevent a combined 16,000 tonnes of marine litter by 2030, as well as saving 620,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, while implementing EPR would prevent 10,000 tonnes of marine litter, cutting plastic waste in the ocean by up to 55 per cent.

Hara Xirou, Head of South East Europe at Eunomia, commented: “We are very pleased to collaborate with SCP/RAC and national experts towards a common goal to support the development of regional guidelines to tackle single-use plastic pollution in the Mediterranean, as part of the Mediterranean Action Plan.

“Aside from a well-functioning DRS and EPR scheme, special attention should be paid to measures which drive a shift in consumption away from single-use plastic to multi-use alternatives, such as information campaigns, bans and consumption levies, that lead to a carbon benefit.

“Increased reuse also leads to waste prevention and associated carbon benefits from reduced incineration.

“These benefits significantly offset the additional greenhouse gas emissions produced through washing, and the decrease in carbon benefits from recycling, as waste prevention reduces total tonnage of waste available for recycling decreases.”

Enrique De Villamore, director of SCP/RAC, commented: “SCP/RAC is working to find ways of preventing plastic leakages in the environment, particularly in the marine and coastal ecosystems, while delivering innovative solutions improving social wellbeing and turning the potential challenges of the post-COVID recovery into opportunities for the transition of countries to green and circular economies.

“The research commissioned to Eunomia in preparation of the guidelines on single-use plastic products provides us with key elements to develop them and offers for the first time key information on potential impact of measures in the Southern Mediterranean.

“This will be a great contribution from SCP/RAC to the Contracting Parties of Barcelona, supporting their commitment to combat the negative effects of plastic pollution.”