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Politics

Greece Will Ban Single-Use Plastics, But Not This Year

ATHENS – Eight months after first announcing the plan, Greece's New Democracy government said it will finally be the one to end the use of disposable plastics, beginning July 1, 2021, not this year.

Environment & Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis made the declaration at Schinias beach outside the capital city, where he inaugurated a joint partnership with the AC Laskaridis Charitable Foundation on the Greece, Free of Single-Use Plastics campaign.

That was reported by the Sydney-based Greek City Times which said the ban will cover plastics used only once before they are thrown away or recycled, including plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles and most food packaging.

At the event, where volunteers cleaned the beach from plastics, Hatzidakis said the end to single-use plastics will be introduced to the public administration sector six months before it goes public, on Jan. 1, to give businesses and people time to adjust.

He also announced that consumers will be provided with more incentives to encourage recycling of plastic single-use bottles, including a refund. “Every day, we use a million plastic cups of coffee in Greece,” Hatzidakis noted.

He said most of the garbage in the seats, up to 85 percent of which is plastic, is half made up of single use items that's convenient for society and people but devastating to the environment.

“This cannot continue, so we are moving ahead with this initiative, which the prime minister himself has strongly supported, and which must be done in tandem with citizens,” he said, according to the report.

Foundation Executive Direction Angeliki Kosmopoulou, coordinating the beach clean-up, said, “Greece is taking a great leap forward” to end the disposable plastics but said a public awareness campaign is needed, similar to those trying to require recyclable bags in supermarkets that was widely ignored for years.

In September, 2019, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the initiative, and said there had been progress through charging users of plastic carrier bags with an environmental tax, in compliance with a European Union directive.

This measure reduced single-use plastic bags by an estimated 80 to 85 percent in 2018, compared to the year before, according to a survey by the Institute of Retail Consumer Goods (IELKA.)

Applying a ban to all types of single-use plastics, such as cups, bottles, straws and other commodities of everyday use may seem more difficult, but entirely feasible for Greece, said Ilianna Kosta, a product designer of a local manufacturer of bamboo-made biodegradable utensils said,  reported the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

"The Greek market is working very hard to show progress in this respect, and is advancing fast. Local business has made a dynamic entry in environment-friendly products and the Greek society has also matured toward that," Kosta told Xinhua.

"We get so much more interest from various businesses for our plastic-free products, and several other companies like ours have sprung out after we launched our business in 2016," said Kosta, affirming her certainty that the challenge for the ban of single-use plastics can indeed be met within two years.

Athens International Airport (AIA) spokesman Ioakim Tsimbidis told the news agency the facility banned single-use plastics from the employees' food service areas, while  food service companies for passengers replaced plastics  still on sale in stores with environmentally friendly choices.

Companies are now going out of their way to ensure they reduce the use of plastic, often encouraging each other to do so, according to Tsimbidis.

AIA and food service companies at the terminal "are together examining further action aimed at completely eradicating single-use plastics in the coming years," Tsimbidis said.

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