Norway wants to implement a ban on single-use plastic by 2020 ahead of the European Parliament’s implementation of the Single-Use Plastics Directive. In May 2019, a sweeping majority of 560 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) voted in favour of the single-use plastic ban agreement in the effort to combat marine litter and gearing towards a circular economy.
“I want to ban single-use plastic as fast as possible, and we are now running a race where certain plastic items can be banned already by summer 2020,” says former Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, Ola Elvestuen.
The Norwegian Environment Agency was tasked to recommend a list of plastic items for a national ban in 2019. They suggested the following that can also be found on EU's single-use plastic ban as these are most commonly found along the European coastlines:
- Single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks)
- Single-use plastic plates
- Plastic straws
- Plastic mixing/stirring sticks
- Plastic balloon sticks
- Cotton swabs made of plastic
- Take-away food containers made of expanded polystyrene (styrofoam).
- Drinking cups made of expanded polystyrene (styrofoam).
Many stores in Norway have already started selling many reusable items such as wooden cotton swabs, straws made of glass or steel, and biodegradable cutlery and plates.
The ban should see a reduction of such disposable products in Norway by 1.9 billion units annually, according to studies by Mepex, a consulting company commissioned on behalf of the Norwegian Environment Agency.
“Such disposable products can relatively easily be replaced with other disposable products in other materials, or preferably in reusable products. The phasing out has already come a long way for some of the products. We expect that cheaper alternatives will be available on the market in the next few years,” says Ellen Hambro, director of the Norwegian Environment Agency in their press release.
In addition to the stated ban of single-use plastic items, EU plans to achieve a 90% collection target for plastic bottles by 2029, and plastic bottles will have to contain at least 25% of recycled content by 2025. Norway has already succeeded in recycling 97% of their plastic bottles thanks to Infinitum’s plastic bottle deposit system.
The EU ban also reinforced the “polluter pays” principle, by extended responsibility for producers such as for the tobacco industry and fishing gear manufacturers bears the cost for nets lost at sea. The Norwegian single-use plastic ban has, so far, not included this. However, the Directorate of Fisheries has mandated that any fishing gear that gets lost in Norwegian waters must be reported.
In Norway, a study has shown that half of over 10 000 tonnes of microplastic from different processes end up in the ocean each year. Most of this microplastic comes from car tires, paint, rubber granules from artificial turf and textiles.
A statue called "Jarle Kval" was placed at Vindenes on Sotra - Norway, in honor of a goose whale, which was found emanciated with 30 plastic bags in its stomach in 2017. Photo: Larissa Slottet/Ogoori.
There is no doubt that plastic poses a human health risk and detrimental to both land and marine animals. On the Norwegian island of Sotra, a six-metre-long, Cuvier’s beaked whale was found washed up on the shores in 2017. Researchers from the University of Bergen found 30 plastic objects in the stomach of the emaciated whale, including sweet wrappers and plastic bread bags, with labels written in Danish and English.
The single-use plastic ban will hopefully avoid more incidents like this one around the world.