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Opinion / Editorial

Quadruple plastic environment!

Quadruple plastic environment!

Reducing the high pollution of the environment, mainly of rivers and seas, from plastic that is not recycled, that is, that is not assimilated, does not dissolve, is really a noble action. In recent years, our government tried to limit or remove single-use plastic bags from the market. Initially in December 2018 with the local government. Following the example of Germany (in 2016, Germany made the decision to stop giving free plastic bags to retailers, and this helped reduce the use from 68 plastic bags per capita to 24 plastic bags, or almost three times less) , the Municipality of Tirana imposed on Supermarkets and other retail outlets to put a price on plastic bags. Businesses set a price of five lek per bag and this measure somewhat limited their use, as citizens, to save money, took bags or bags from home. Further, unfortunately, every action of the central government has simply increased the costs of plastic packaging for citizens and increased the amount of plastic in the environment. How did this happen? On April 26, 2018, with the Decision of the Council of Ministers (VKM) no. 232 "For some changes and additions to Decision no. 177, dated 6.3.2012, of the Council of Ministers, "On packaging and their waste" (file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/vendim-2018-04-26-232.pdf), the government tried to replace single-use light plastic packaging (plastic bags), with a thickness of 15-18 microns, with heavier plastic packaging, with a thickness of over 35 microns, oxo-degradable (that is, it oxidizes in the environment), requiring that this material plastic cloud to have no less than 55 percent raw material from recycling, or bio-degradable material. The latter dissolves in the environment and does not remain as a toxic residue). Oxo-degradable material is extremely dangerous. Oxidation as a process means breaking down the plastic material into particles. For scientists from the European Union and around the world, pollution with plastic particles is much more harmful than pollution from normal plastic bags (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/plastic-pollution). Scientists warn that as plastic slowly breaks down, micro-particles enter food chains and end up in humans. Today, there are many studies that show toxic traces in living organisms, due to the use of oxo-degradable substances. Oxo-degradable bags after three years become toxic fertilizer! However, 35-micron-thick plastic bags, designated by the government as "multi-use", they began to be given by supermarkets and other trading points for 10 lek a bag, but only one in a hundred citizens took it upon themselves to use them again! This is because they are thick and do not bend easily. When they fold, they blow your pocket. They contain more than 55 percent (often up to 90-100 percent) plastic from recycling, i.e. from waste processing. Such bags with us do not contain bio-degradable materials, since the latter are natural elements, such as wheat, corn or potato starch, which as a raw material for the production of bags cost a lot. In this way, the 35 micron bags only added to, practically doubled the amount of plastic in circulation, as they were rarely, if ever, used more than once, being thrown into the waste bin by our families immediately after use. first. While citizens' expenses for packaging in their purchases increased. Halal if nature would have benefited from this increase! But nature was burdened by this government action and more with plastic materials. Meanwhile, despite the modification of the legislation, through VKM 232, and the introduction of thicker bags in supermarkets, single-use plastic bags with a thickness of 15-18 microns continued to be used heavily throughout the period May 2018-May 2022, as they were cheaper and were more comfortable to use. In October 2019, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism announced the initiative "Albania the first European country without plastic bags". Behind the initiative was a draft law prepared by the Ministry of Environment, which fined 500,000 lek to those who produced, imported or put on the market single-use plastic bags. In case of recurrence, the value of the fine was tripled to 1.5 million ALL and the entire amount of prohibited plastic bags was confiscated. In case they repeated it for the third time, the business license was revoked. This bill was delayed due to the pandemic and the objections of recycling businesses. The recycling industry had a turnover of 50 million euros and 29 of its 62 enterprises produced single-use bags. But this draft law was turned into law two years later, with Law No. 28/2022 "For some additions and changes in the law with no. 10 463, dated 22.9.2011, "On integrated waste management", amended", approved in the Assembly on March 17, 2022 (https://www.parlament.al/Files/ProjektLigje/20220330204535ligj%20nr.%2028 ,%20dt.%2017.3.2022.pdf). The change from the October 2019 draft was that now, the government doubled the requirement for oxo-degradable plastic bags, doubling their thickness from 35 to 70 microns and specifying the dimensions to be 50 cm long and 24 cm wide, with a capacity of over 10 kilograms and thick on each side over 70 microns. The law was nicknamed the law of "plastic particles". of those few of us who understood the absurdity of using heavy oxo-degradable plastic bags. The oxo-degradable bag has both a high risk and a big problem, according to European Union standards. Since by law, more than 55 percent of the raw materials of its production come from the recycling industry, the contact of fresh food with this bag significantly reduces food safety, because the sources of recycling of the bag's raw material are unknown. No European Union country would allow this bag to come into contact with unpackaged fresh food. This is happening to us regularly. Our government, stunned by the positivity of the initiative at first sight, such as the "future without plastic bags in Albania" initiative, or bogus statements such as "Albania, the first country in Europe without plastic bags!", misdirected by a lawsuit total damage from plastic particles and from the inaccuracies of the relation of the draft law, that we are allegedly in line with the European Union Directives for the protection of the environment and the reduction of the use of plastic materials, resulting in the limitation of plastic waste, announced June 1, 2022 as the day of before the implementation of the new law. Perhaps the government sincerely hoped that these twice as heavy bags would eventually be used a few times. But that didn't happen. Indeed, from June 1, 2022, with plastic bags twice as heavy and with twice as much plastic as 35 micron bags, we have quadrupled the presence of plastic in our environments! Again, these bags are being used by citizens only once and again they are not being turned into reusable bags. The law and the government initiative have failed completely. What we have achieved is that we have doubled the price of plastic packaging for our citizens, supposedly in the name of protecting the lives and health of our children. The United Europe where we want to go has chosen two paths. The first is through the use of plastic bags entirely composed of natural elements, i.e. wheat, corn and potato amides. These bags are very light, with a thickness of 12 microns and are completely biodegradable. For this first path, in Albania we have a pioneering company, which seriously risks going bankrupt, because our state and government do not support bio-degradable plastic bags. It has even often happened that supermarkets selling such bags have been fined, as our inspectors have caught them with bags 12 microns thick, that is against the law! O Tempora o mores! We fine the enterprise that offers the citizen plastic bags completely digestible by the environment! Our controller can rightly say: "How can I tell that it is not a single-use polluting bag, but a bio-assimilable bag?!" For this, our government needs to spend a fund of only 150 thousand euros and buy a laboratory that performs measurements of plastic matter. The controller would be able to take the samples to the lab and spot the difference. The sooner our government buys this laboratory, the better it will be for our economy and society, for the future of our children. The second path chosen by the EU is the use of piece rafts and the promotion and partial subsidization of their costs by the State. Our government has exactly these two paths, to really help the health of our children, to protect our future from poisoning by plastic waste. It should act an hour earlier towards these two alternatives and correct the absurd law that the Parliament approved five months ago. And not to quadruple the presence of plastic from such ugly initiatives. The second path chosen by the EU is the use of piece rafts and the promotion and partial subsidization of their costs by the State. Our government has exactly these two paths, to really help the health of our children, to protect our future from poisoning by plastic waste. It should act an hour earlier towards these two alternatives and correct the absurd law that the Parliament approved five months ago. And not to quadruple the presence of plastic from such ugly initiatives. The second path chosen by the EU is the use of piece rafts and the promotion and partial subsidization of their costs by the State. Our government has exactly these two paths, to really help the health of our children, to protect our future from poisoning by plastic waste. It should act an hour earlier towards these two alternatives and correct the absurd law that the Parliament approved five months ago. And not to quadruple the presence of plastic from such ugly initiatives. It should act an hour earlier towards these two alternatives and correct the absurd law that the Parliament approved five months ago. And not to quadruple the presence of plastic from such ugly initiatives. It should act an hour earlier towards these two alternatives and correct the absurd law that the Parliament approved five months ago. And not to quadruple the presence of plastic from such ugly initiatives.