Malta’s MEPs stand united in their belief that Malta and the EU must continue to strive towards a plastic-free society. While all agree that the banning of single plastics is a step in the right direction, far more still needs to be done.
Lovin Malta spoke to five of Malta’s MEPs, Cyrus Engerer, Roberta Metsola, Josianne Cutajar, David Casa and Alex Agius Saliba, for their views on the situation of plastic in Malta and across Europe.
Alfred Sant was also contacted yet no response was received.
The MEPs responses come in Plastic-Free July, a key campaign of the Plastic Free Foundation who strive towards achieving a plastic-free society.
As such, the month of July is dedicated to reducing our use of plastic while raising our awareness of the severity of the situation.
All five of the MEPs stated that not only would they practise a Plastic-Free July, but each also stressed the importance of making it a lifestyle in reducing the use of plastic as much as possible.
However, each highlighted the difficulties in fully transitioning. Whether it is the struggles of stopping the consumption of bottled water or not using plastic coffee cups, there are always struggles – and they acknowledge that.
Each of the MEPs also emphasised that while the EU is making progress at a certain pace, nothing stops individual member states from going ahead and passing their own legislations and setting their own goals on reducing plastic.
View this post on Instagram
On the topic of whether Malta and the EU were doing enough to reduce plastic litter, especially marine litter, Engerer highlighted “we need a bigger push” when it comes to protecting our oceans.
Engerer, a member of the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee, has been chosen by the Parliament to be on the delegation to the IMO’s Marine Protection Environment Committee. In particular, the MEP focused on marine litter due to his desire to have at least one MEP focus on plastics.
“I was very disappointed with the outcome. It was decided to postpone any discussions on marine plastic waste from the shipping industry (which was on the agenda) to the next meeting in November with many countries trying to avoid any discussion.”
Since his first days on the ENVI committee, Engerer has put protecting seas and oceans at the top of his agenda due to how it was being left out by the European Commission.
“Much more needs to be done to abolish all single-use plastics and closing any loopholes that will be found,” the MEP highlighted.
“Above laws, education and a change in culture are what we must focus on. Irrespective of what is available on the market, we should empower citizens to choose products that do not damage the environment – that is what our ultimate aim should be.”
Cutajar highlighted that “it is paramount that we continue to tackle this subject, even more so because of the dire effects that it has on our seas”.
“If we look at the Pacific Ocean, we’ll see that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch weighs over 87,000 tonnes and ranges over an area three times the size of France. We can do more and we should do more.”
The Gozitan MEP also pointed out that the EU and its member states have taken steps to “reduce the impact of marine litter”, given that 80% of marine litter originates from land.
Alex Agius Saliba further echoed the crucial importance that “we must realise that our seas are part of our environment as well and with the justified increase in action and publicity for the general environment on land, we must also look at how to tackle the issue of marine litter.”
He also highlighted that “if we all do our small part in protecting the environment, it will have a large impact across the entire European Union”.
Metsola meanwhile pointed out that “thanks to a new law we passed in the European Parliament, as of this month, some of the most damaging single-use plastic products are banned from sale across the EU”.
“Is it enough? No”, she continued. “But it’s a step closer than we were yesterday. We need to do more, faster”.
Agius Saliba further stated that while the banning of single-use plastics was a step forwards, the European Parliament had to be ambitious.
“We must acknowledge that we are playing catch-up because for years we did not give the environment the attention it deserved”.
“Passing legislation is only one of the steps of a more global and ambitious plan by the EU to reduce the use of plastic,” he explained, stating that educating and informing EU citizens was of the paramount importance to becoming plastic-free.
“We must be at the forefront of pushing forward this change and this can only be done by showing the huge benefits that we ourselves will get when living in a society which has no or little need for plastic.”
Meanwhile, Casa looked ahead to the future stating that with the ban of single-use plastics, the next step needs to be a focus on microplastics given the detrimental harm that they cause to the environment.
𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐜, 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐬𝐨 𝐟𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐜!
From today, single-use plastic plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks and cotton buds cannot be placed on the market in the EU. The same goes for all products made of oxo-degradable plastic!
RT to spread the word 👍🏽 pic.twitter.com/YGQ0A0s1FO
— European Parliament (@Europarl_EN) July 2, 2021
Keeping in tune with what future proposals on reducing plastic pollution across the EU may hold, Cutajar explained that the EU was putting a lot of emphasis on promoting a circular economy – which forms part of the EU Green Deal.
“We should switch to a production and consumption model whose keywords are: reusing, repairing and recycling existing materials and products wherever possible.”
“I say that investing in a circular economy represents also an economic opportunity that can benefit everyone in the long-term,” she continued.
Through a circular economy, Cutajar pointed out that this would be killing three birds with one stone: improving waste management, promote local economies and let SMEs thrive and offer a clean environment that further supports citizens’ wellbeing.
On the topic of the circular economy, Metsola stated that this still remains a challenge in Malta – bringing to light the fact that nearly 90% of all waste is sent to landfills, which is unsustainable.
“The challenge is huge. The circular economy involves a fundamental change. It really means re-thinking the way we design, the way we produce, consume and dispose of products.”
How has European climate action evolved since 1973? 🌍👀👇 pic.twitter.com/MZagXUrv3a
— European Parliament (@Europarl_EN) July 5, 2021
She also shone a light on the symbolism behind Neil Agius’ feat.
“[Malta] celebrated Neil Agius and his amazing feat of nature. Now we should celebrate his message – that of reducing and eliminating our consumption of the plastic that clogs our seas throttles our turtles and causes irreparable harm to our environment. As lawmakers and politicians, we need to do more than pick up our 6 pieces.”
The First Vice-President of the EU Parliament highlighted that “we need to address our buy-use-throw away culture, that so many of us, myself included, are guilty of”.
“It’s not only about small individual choices. There are the decisions that can be taken by lawmakers – like updating our waste management system, like education, like real enforcement when it comes to mis-disposing and littering, like moving to a real circular economy and, things like guaranteeing our tap water to be of higher quality which would by itself reduce the demand for plastic.”
Casa meanwhile pointed out that Malta “has been rubbished on waste management for years. Instead of moving forward, shockingly little is being done to stop regressing [in this area]”.
The longest-serving Maltese MEP, Casa continued by noting that “what we have from the Maltese government are statements of intent, that it should be doing more. But not much else”.
“We have seen reports that only 1% of plastic waste was recycled in 2019. We’ve seen allegations that the infrastructure is inadequate and that the Maltese public is paying for the deficiencies.”
No matter what side of the political spectrum you may lie, plastic waste is a clear issue and, as shown by Malta’s MEPs, it remains an issue at the forefront of their agendas.
When it comes to the environment, Malta and Europe have a long way to go in order to reach climate commitments by 2030. However, there is hope as further awareness is raised about the environment.
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
Do you think Malta is far from going plastic-free? Let us know in the comments