Plastics reduction bill puts responsibility solely on businesses

Plastic waste.
Plastic waste. Source: Pixabay

The Riigikogu has passed the first reading of a bill that aims to reduce the use of disposable plastic containers and plastic waste. There was previously a plan to impose a packaging tax of 50 cents per item, however this is no no longer in place. Each business is now solely responsible for reducing their own plastic waste.

The proposal includes a partial transition. For instance, from the next year it will be prohibited to sell on the Estonian market disposable cotton buds with plastic sticks, as well as plastic cutlery, plates and straws, which are commonly found in marine litter. In line with the EU directive from the last year many companies have already replaced their plastics

By 2024, all bottle caps will have to be bottle-attached and by 2029, plastic bottles will have to be made of 90 percent recycled materials.

"From the ministry's perspective, we would have preferred more ambitious regulations, but the solutions we proposed were not widely approved by companies, so we chose to go for a compromise with them," Sigrid Soomlais, the head of the environmental management department at the ministry of the environment, said.

Initially, the ministry proposed a minimum price for single-use food packaging, but now companies can decide themselves how and to what extent they are going to reduce plastic waste.

"There is no set objective, thus we do not include a specific requirement, such as 90, 10 or 50 percent. It is important that they take some steps," Minister of the Environment Madis Kallas (SDE) said.

The minister explained that all businesses could take this regulation into account and implement alternatives, but it would be difficult to achieve a specific objective due to the competing interests of all stakeholders.

"I would be in favor of such restrictions and a decline in plastic usage and plastic products, but we are not implementing them in a manner in which one person dictates and everyone must comply," Kallas said.

Former Environment Minister Tõnis Mölder (Center) finds flaws in the proposal.

"Some alternatives to disposable standards that have already been introduced and include, for example, the so called eco-friendly wooden cutlery, will be prohibited under this draft law, and I find this unreasonable," Mölder explained.

Several companies have already reduced their use of plastic. Rimi, for example, has been testing a strategy in three of its stores in which customers can either bring their own packaging, choose a 30-cent single-use box or pay for a refill of the container, which could be returned to the store.

"Our reusable packaging has been well researched. These packages are made to be cleaned and reused multiple times without causing any health risks," Katrin Bats, the head of responsible business at supermarket Rimi, said.

The plastic reduction law, the minister of the environment said, will become effective later this year.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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