Addressing a conference on plastic as a challenge of the circular economy, Croatian Environment and Energy Minister Tomislav Ćorić said on Tuesday that the recycling of plastic and other materials was a priority while the head of the Croatian Greenpeace office, Zoran Tomić, said that the country’s presidency of the EU in 2020 provided an opportunity “to show leadership in that area as well.”
Twenty percent of Croatia’s GDP is generated by tourism and the country can beat its rivals only with a healthy and clean environment, Ćorić said, recalling that more than 37% of Croatia’s land territory was covered by the NATURA 2000 programme.
“That is why all types of recycling, not only of plastic… but other materials as well, are a priority and must be a priority in the period to come,” Ćorić said at the conference, organised by the Croatian Waste Management Association (HUGO), a member of the International Solid Waste Association.
Ćorić said that by entering the EU Croatia had assumed the obligation to start collecting separately 50% of paper, glass, metal and plastic waste by the end of 2020, that is, 60% of such waste by the end of 2022.
The Environment and Energy Ministry is fully committed to that goal, but achieving it depends on the behaviour of all social stakeholders, notably local government units and citizens, said Ćorić.
He recalled that every year Europe generated around 25 million tonnes of plastic waste, of which only 30% was collected while the rest stayed in the environment.
“We have to deal with that problem successfully in the future,” he stressed, adding that his ministry fully supported the EU’s policy of not using plastic in situations where it was not necessary.
“Croatia and its Environment and Energy Ministry support the goal of building into new products a minimum 10 million tonnes of recycled plastic by 2025, making all plastic packaging in the EU reusable and recyclable by 2030 and making the recycling rate exceed 50% as well as increasing the EU’s sorting and recycling capacity four times compared to the current capacity,” Ćorić said.
As for the EU directive on reducing the impact of certain plastic products on the environment and the plan to ban certain plastic products such as single-use plastic cutlery, cotton buds and straws, Ćorić said that long-term effects would definitely be positive.
He said that his ministry was working intensively with the Croatian Chamber of Commerce on modernising the secondary raw material market and defining technological requirements for individual types of waste to facilitate its sale and that work was underway on amendments concerning packaging waste in order to improve system efficiency.
The head of the Greenpeace office in Croatia, Zoran Tomić, underlined the importance of protecting the Adriatic from plastic waste.
Commenting on the charging of a fee on plastic bags in Croatia, he said that rules on collecting the fee were largely not observed, that there was no set price and that the thickness of bags was also a problem because the lightest bags were exempt from the fee.
“By introducing the mandatory fee in 2002 Ireland has managed to reduce the use of light plastic bags by 90%,” he said, adding that Greenpeace activists believed that with the current rules in force, Croatia would not be able to achieve the goal of reducing the use of plastic bags by the end of the year, which was why they had launched a petition to ban light plastic bags which had been signed by more than 40,000 people so far.