In the battle against plastic pollution, Spain has zeroed in on a new target — the plastic used to wrap fruits and vegetables in the supermarket.
Plastic-wrapped produce will be banned in the country beginning in 2023, according to a decree currently being drafted by the Ministry for Ecological Transition, as sources familiar with the matter told Spain’s El País Wednesday.
“[We want to] fight the overuse of packaging in the most effective way,” a ministry spokesperson told El País, adding that plastic pollution “has exceeded all limits.”
Plastic packaging in Spain generates 1.6 million tonnes (approximately 1.8 million tons) of plastic waste every year, according to Ministry of Ecological Transition figures reported by The Local. Less than half of that is ever recycled.
The plastic waste used to wrap fruits and vegetables has been opposed by environmental groups both in Spain and abroad. Spain’s move also follows French legislation that banned plastic wrap on fruits and vegetables, which will go into effect in January of 2022, as the Library of Congress reported.
The Spanish decree follows the French law in only banning plastic wrap for portions weighing under 1.5 kilograms (approximately 3.3 pounds.) In addition to banning plastic wrap, the draft decree is also considering measures to discourage the use of plastic water bottles by encouraging the installation of public drinking fountains and the promotion of other alternatives, El País reported. The decree may also begin reducing the number of plastic cups passed out at public events from 2023 onward. Overall, the decree sets a goal of reducing the number of plastic bottles sold in the country for drinks by 50 percent by 2030 and for making sure 100 percent of packaging is recyclable.
Spain’s Ministry for Ecological Transition has met with both business leaders and green groups to discuss the new measures.
Greenpeace’s Julio Barea told El País that the group approved of the plastic wrap ban, but was waiting to see how it would be applied. Overall, Barea said Spain’s center-left government has not done enough to reduce plastic pollution.
“We drink plastic, we eat plastic and we breathe plastic,” Barea said.
The new decree is also in line with recommendations made in the first ever review of the scientific literature on marine litter in Spain, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin this month. The paper found microplastic contamination along the entire Spanish coast, and outlined steps that international and local governments, businesses and individuals could take to reduce plastic waste.
“In our opinion, the solution goes beyond measures such as recycling or reuse, and unquestionably involves limiting the use of plastics, mainly single-use plastics, and also drastically reducing their production globally,” the study authors wrote.
They said that consumers should buy food including fruits and vegetables in bulk to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging.