Greece is flexible in implementing the law

Indulgently below the base is the implementation of the law on plastics in Greece, 21 months after it was passed. In accordance with WWF Hellas, which released the first evaluation report, we are far from the situation being described as satisfactory. Most measures are either incompletely implemented, delayed, or implemented incorrectly, while some provisions were repealed just a few months after their adoption.

Essentially, therefore, the law remains on paper at a time when, according to estimates, only the Greek seas end up annually 11,500 tons of plastics.

The law

With the consumption of single-use plastics increasing more and more, the EU issued a directive in 2019 to reduce the impact of plastic pollution. With a law issued in October 2020 (4736/2020), Greece became one of the first EU countries to incorporate the directive in question into national law. The law, having as its main objective the gradual reduction of plastic pollution, provides a number of settings for the abolition of certain problematic single-use plastics, the limitation of a range of other plastic products and the rational management of the resulting plastic waste.

As the report’s introductory note states, the government’s policy on single-use plastics can be summed up in the phrase “unimplemented commitments”.

What about plastic straws?

Many consider paper straws annoying and recall the plastic ones, asking for their return. But if one wonders how much pollution is created by their use and what effects it has on the environment, they will probably rethink the “inconvenience”, stop looking for plastic straws and resort to other solutions that are less annoying, such as metal ones.

Although most businesses have complied with the law banning plastic straws, they are still widely used, according to WWF Hellas.

Based on the law and as a requirement of the European directive on single-use plastics, from 3.7.2021 the market of 9 problematic single-use plastics had to be stopped, including straws. The law allowed the use of these items to continue until their stocks are exhausted, but not beyond 10 months from the start of the provision, i.e. not beyond 3.5.2022, as stated in the report.

Plastic straws are still traded
GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

In general, the measure is applied and they have already ceased to be available from most retail outlets and from all supermarket chains. But, as the citizens in the places they chose to spend their holidays probably noticed, plastic straws are still traded and used in large quantities in cafes, bars and restaurants, despite the ban (…) Due to a lack of controls, a ” “circulation” that has plastic straws all over Greece. Other businesses as well as online stores are taking advantage of the lack of knowledge of many caterers and selling plastic ‘biodegradable’ straws as an alternative, although and these are not exempt from the prohibition of use” the report emphasizes.

If someone says ‘come on baby now with a plastic straw, I’ll save the environment?’ then we should help him revise that view. Because we are not talking about just a straw. We are talking about billions of straws, used by millions of people around the world” he says Achilles Pletharas, head of footprint reduction programs of WWF Greece.

Straws are not recycled and is one of the species that are mainly found in the seas and beaches and are the cause of damage to biodiversity” emphasizes and adds:

“Although they should not be in the Greek market from May 2022, there are some industries here in Greece that produce plastic straws illegally but also imports made from other countries, also illegally. The point is to stop the phenomenon and this will only be done with controls”.

The contribution that is not attributed to the state

The law provides that from 1/1/2022 when someone goes to buy a coffee in plastic or takes a product in plastic packaging should give 5 minutes for the container and 5 minutes for the lid, so a total of 10 minutes.

But, as Mr. Pletharas notes, “after market research, we noticed that in many stores this contribution, 10 cents, has been incorporated into the price of the coffee, so it is not attributed to the state. That is, although the consumer is charged the 10 cents, these do not end up with the State and go into the cash register of each store. According to estimates, since this measure began, approximately 4 million euros have been collected from the levy, but these that have not been rendered are multiple.

Another measure that the law provides and has not been implemented is that all shops should have reusable bottles in a prominent place and to inform consumers about the possibility of supply. “However, in practice, the vast majority of stores do not inform citizens of the possibility of purchase, nor do they inform consumers that they will have a discount if they buy the product in their own container” states Mr. Plitharas.

2 – 2.5 billion plastic bottles are consumed in Greece annually, according to the WWF
GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

The guarantee system

According to the provisions of the law, from 5/1/2023 – i.e. in less than 5 months from today – the consumer when purchasing a product in a plastic bottle will pays an extra pricewhich he will receive back when he returns the empty bottle to return points.

As the report states, international experience shows that this system is the most suitable for the country to collect and recycle almost all of the 2-2.5 billion plastic bottles consumed in Greece annually.

However, in practice there are ominous developments surrounding its implementation. Although Law 4736/2020 provided for the existence of a single nationwide system, another law in July 2021 (4819/2021) repealed this provision and gave the green light for the creation of several guarantee return systems. According to WWF, it is very likely that there will be ripples and unfair competition between systems.

In addition, while the 2020 law set January 5, 2023 as the start date of the guarantee return system, with a recent law issued a few days ago (4964/2022)the start of operation is postponed to July 3, 2023.

At the same time, the 2020 law provided that by 3/7/2021 a joint ministerial decision should have been issued regarding the scope and framework of application of the guarantee return system, but in the end the decision was issued one year late (on 21/7/ 2022).

The organization also emphasizes that “the ministerial decision almost arbitrarily defines a guarantee fee of the order of €0.10-0.15 for each bottle, price very low compared to other European countries who have experience in implementing a guarantee system (e.g. Germany and the Netherlands €0.25)”.

“Having a low counter price shows that you are not creating the incentives so that the citizen participates in this system. The higher the counter price, the more people participate and the higher numbers of plastic bottle recycling you achieve.” emphasizes Mr. Plitharas.

Public fountains

According to a provision of the law, municipalities are obliged from 1/7/2021 to have public taps for free drinking water in municipal sports facilities and in municipal playgrounds. However, as Mr. Plitharas emphasizes, “more than time has passed and nothing has been done”.

The aim of the measure is for the consumer to fill their bottle and not buy a new one, which is done in other countries such as Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. In Greece, public taps are still an endangered species in almost all large urban centers.


The article is in Greek

Tags: Greece flexible implementing law

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