The transition to an economy where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible, and the reduction of waste production are essential to develop a sustainable, resource efficient and competitive economy. It is estimated that most plastics are disposed of after a single use, representing a loss to the economy in the range of $ 50 -100.
Based on the simple concepts of reducing waste, reusing materials and redesigning how we create value from products and services, the idea of the circular economy has emerged, supporting the idea of fundamentally addressing how we create value in our economies, while minimising negative impacts using green approaches. Over 300 million tonnes of plastic are generated every year globally, 8 million tonnes of which flow into the oceans. In 2018, UN Environment has started a process to scale up and accelerate the shift towards a circular economy, focusing efforts on stimulating public-private sector engagement with circular economy solutions, and strengthening the scientific basis for policy.
In the Mediterranean, more than 500 tons of plastic are entering the sea every day when plastic remains a key material in the regional economy. Rates of collection, reuse and recycling remain very low and disposal measures, often insufficient, have environmental, social and economic impacts. Taking steps towards a better Environmental Status includes developing an integrated waste management infrastructure that supports waste prevention, collection, high quality recycling and energy recovery, improving life-cycle design and sustainable packaging, encouraging extended producer responsibility and environmentally responsible fishing and maritime transport practices such as adequate port reception facilities.
In the Mediterranean Sea, we are developing ambitious reduction targets, giving priority to sources of marine litter with the strongest impact, such as single use plastics. Raising awareness on marine litter and encouraging the actions of fishermen and NGOs, especially on collection and cleaning actions, also largely contributes to the reduction of marine litter and its impact on the environment.
Banning of single-use plastic bags and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
Aiming for the elimination of single-use plastic by 2023, the UN Environment #CleanSeas campaign is urging governments to pass plastic reduction policies, encouraging industries to minimize plastic packaging and redesign products and raising awareness to change consumers’ habits . So far, forty countries, including France, Israel, Italy, Malta, and Montenegro, have joined the campaign.
In the Mediterranean Sea and in addition to the commitments of these Mediterranean countries, the regulatory framework for banning of single-use plastic bags and promoting EPR is under the SCP/RAC leadership and already secured the formal commitment of Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. This new tool includes the review of the existing regulatory framework on non-single use plastics, consultations with governments on final technical assistance, a reference document on the situation of single use plastic bags and options for reduction including implementation road map.
National events in Tunisia and Egypt and two pilot projects in Morocco designed to promote alternatives to single-use plastic bags and “return and refund” have also emerged.
Fishing for Litter and Adopt a beach measures
The Mediterranean Marine Litter Regional Plan explores the possible extent of Fishing-for-litter, considering the best environmental practices and techniques to avoid the possible negative impact on marine environment and ecosystems.
To date, five projects have been implemented focusing on ecological bags on board and “Ecopuertos” (Spain), DeFishGear (Adriatic Sea) and ports of San Remo (Italy) and Rovinj (Croatia). Within the EU-funded Marine Litter MED Project, in relation to IMAP and EU funded ECAP MED II Projects, “Fishing-for-Litter” pilots have been also being implemented in Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco.
Volunteer regular effort dedicated to preserve and protect a beach or “Adopt-a-beach” pilots have been initiated in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Israel, Libya, and Morocco. National Capacity Building Workshops were also organized in Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia in 2018 when legal agreements are about to be reached in Tunisia and Algeria.
Port Reception facilities
In the Mediterranean, the issue of Port Reception Facilities is addressed by REMPEC. Pilot actions are implemented, including the review of existing best practices in the Mediterranean and other European Regional Seas for the application of charges at reasonable costs and No-Special-Fee system for the use of port reception facilities.
Guidance documents will determine the application of charges and operational Guidelines on the provision of the reception facilities in ports and the delivery of ship generated wastes. National meetings to raise awareness on the needs to better manage sea-based litter in ports and provide ships are also organized, considering updated information related to obligation from Annex V of MARPOL.