Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great break and that you have started the new year with some sustainable resolutions. In 2018 several positive things happened around the world and I thought I´d share some of this good news with you to start the new year on a positive note:
Bali bans single-use plastics
Governor Wayan Koster of the Indonesian island announced the ban on December 24, 2018, and expressed hope that the policy would lead to a 70 per cent decline in Bali's marine plastics within a year. The ban includes plastic bags, styrofoam and straws. The announcement comes after a wave of recent global media attention, disappointed beachgoers and ongoing efforts from local organization Bye Bye Plastic Bags. The new policy carries a six-month grace period dating from December 21, when it was signed and took effect. "This policy is aimed at producers, distributors, suppliers and business actors, including individuals, to suppress the use of single-use plastics. They must substitute plastics with other materials," Mr Koster said and added that administrative sanctions would be imposed on those who did not comply with the ban. Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, plans to follow Bali's example by drafting a similar gubernatorial regulation that bans single-use plastic bags.
South Korea bans single-use plastic bags
As of January 1, 2019 all single-use plastic bags at major South-Korean supermarkets have been banned. Stores will instead be required to offer alternatives such as paper or cloth bags which can be recycled. The ban will affect 2,000 major supermarkets and 11,000 supermarkets with a sales floor space greater than of 165m2. Those stores were already prohibited from providing customers with plastic bags for free. However, the new rules will bar single-use plastic bags, except to hold wet produce such as fish and meat. Those who violate the ban could face fines of up to 3 million won (about USD2,700).
European Parliament approves plans to ban all single-use plastics in 2021
In October MEPs backed a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks. These products make up over 70% of marine litter. The consumption of several other items, for which no alternative exists, will have to be reduced by member states by least 25% by 2025. This includes single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes or food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams (aren’t there paper alternatives to some of these?). Other plastics, such as beverage bottles, will have to be collected separately and recycled at a rate of 90% by 2025. After the Parliament vote was backed by 571-53, the MEP responsible for the bill, Frédérique Ries, said it was "a victory for our oceans, for the environment and for future generations."
McDonald´s is phasing out plastic straws
The fast food company has said it will phase out plastic straws over the next two years. In the UK and Ireland it already has replaced plastic straws with paper ones, of which it uses 1.8 million a day in the UK alone (yes, you read that right). Plastic straws are hard to recycle (made from fossil fuels, they are almost never recycled because they're too small and could be made from several different types of plastic) and aren't really necessary for most people. Even though there are a lot more plastic items that McDonald´s uses (think of all the lids and plastic lined cups), but “the drive to eliminate plastic straws is a good step and it's symbolic; and symbols are important”, says Eric Goldstein, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Alaska Airlines ditches plastic stirrers and straws
Alaska Airlines, in partnership with Lonely Whale, replaced single-use, non-recyclable, plastic stir straws and citrus picks with sustainable alternatives in its airport lounges and on all domestic and international commercial flights as of July 16, 2018. In 2017, Alaska Airlines handed out 22 million plastic stir straws and citrus picks. The plastic items have been replaced by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, white birch stir sticks and a bamboo alternative for the citrus pick. Non-plastic, marine-friendly straws have been made available to guests with special needs and upon request. The Seattle-based airline is the leading U.S. airline on the 2017 Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
Construction of Keystone XL pipeline is paused
One of the first major actions as president President Donald Trump signed an executive order to advance construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which former President Barack Obama vetoed in 2015. But in November 2018, a federal judge in Montana temporarily blocked TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil over 1,000 miles from the Alberta tar sands to Nebraska. The analysis the State Department conducted to grant the 1,179-mile long crude oil pipeline didn’t consider the impacts the pipeline would have on climate change, so District Court Judge Brian Morris instructed the federal government to research those. TransCanada Corp. is hoping to resume construction by June 2019.
Palau bans coral-damaging sunscreens
The island nation situated in Micronesia passed a law that will ban sunscreens containing 10 coral-damaging chemicals starting 2020. Any retailers who ignore the law and continue to sell products containing chemicals like oxybenzone, octocrylene, and parabens can be faced with fines up to USD 1,000. Hawaii also banned the use of harmful sunscreens in 2018. In 2016 and 2017, record heat caused 50% of the coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to bleach. By 2030, scientists predict, 90% of the world’s coral will be threatened. So officials in places like Palau and Hawaii say that with so many environmental factors out of their control, regulating sunscreens is the least they can do.
Swiss businessman Hansjörg Wyss will contribute USD1 billion towards protecting 30% of the planet
He will be using this money to set up the Wyss Campaign for Nature: a collaborative mission to protect 30% of the world’s surface by 2030. The money will be distributed through his foundation over the course of the next decade in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the Nature Conservancy, and Argentinian environmental group Fundación Flora y Fauna. “For the sake of all living things, let’s see to it that far more of our planet is protected by the people, for the people and for all time”, said Wyss.
The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System has been removed from Endangered List
The World Heritage Committee considered that several measures taken by the country, especially the introduction of a moratorium on oil exploration in the entire maritime zone of Belize and the strengthening of forestry regulations allowing for better protection of mangroves, permitted the removal of the world’s second largest reef from the World Heritage List in Danger. The site came on the list in 2009 due to the destruction of mangroves and marine ecosystems, offshore oil extraction, and the development of non-sustainable building projects. The positive “outcome shows the power of collective action among government, UNESCO, IUCN and civil society and sets an example for the rest of the world,”, said Dr. Mechtild Rossler, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Center.
The UK bans plastic microbeads
The ban means that plastic microbeads can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care products in the UK. The UK government first pledged to ban plastic microbeads in September 2016, following a US ban in 2015.
As more and more people become aware of the vastness of plastic pollution and the urgency of limiting the consumption of single-use plastics, I hope that an increasing amount of (local) governments will act on public pressure and issue more bans throughout 2019. Remember, every time you spend money you cast a vote!