How the country is improving the environmental safety of packaging
Bags, milk and water bottles, disposable tableware and cling film — plastic has long been an integral part of our life. About 300 million tonnes of plastic waste worldwide annually is the price of this. Half of the waste is plastic packaging. It is impossible to do without it, but we can use and recycle it reasonably. What does safe and environmentally friendly packaging mean, how can we switch to it smoothly, and what standards should be adhered to?
Glass and paper
“Approximately 280 thousand tonnes of polyethylene packaging waste is generated in the country every year; about 35 percent is recyclable,” Maksim Tarasov, Head of the Waste Management Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, cites figures.
Non-recyclable types of polymer packaging are buried at the MSW landfill. It should not be like that. More than 60 countries around the world have introduced certain bans and restrictions on the use of disposable plastic products, mainly bags. Belarus does not stand aside: the government has approved an action plan to reduce the use of polymer packaging and replace it with environmentally safe one. The Ministry of Natural Resources is implementing a plan thanks to which polymer packaging is gradually less used and replaced with environmentally safe packaging, including biodegradable one. At trade and catering facilities, drinks must be presented in glass containers, and disposable bags and tableware should be made of paper. The use of polyethylene bags and polymer packaging must be minimised.
“We can observe a trend to reduce the production of polymer packaging and increase the production of environmentally safe one. For example, in 2019-2020, more than four billion bags and packages were made of polymeric materials, while in 2021 their number was 2.5 billion,” Maksim Tarasov says.
Work is underway in all areas. The fees paid by manufacturers and suppliers for organising the collection, disposal and use of biodegradable packaging have been halved. The remuneration for organising the collection, neutralisation and use of polymer packaging has been doubled. Work to limit the import of polymer waste into the country is underway.
The State Committee for Standardisation has developed draft amendments to the technical regulation of the Eurasian Customs Union ‘On Safety of Packaging’ which establishes mandatory requirements for various types of packaging in all member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
The draft amendments prohibit the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) labels on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging, clarify the definition of the term ‘disposal’ and introduce new terms and definitions, such as ‘biodegradable packaging’ and ‘recycling’.
They also provide for the labels on all packaging put into circulation in the EAEU where the packaging material is indicated. That is, it is proposed to label not only finished products but the packaging in which they are supplied. Besides, we suggest applying the biodegradable packaging symbol when test results confirm the biodegradability of the packaging.
The implementation of the programme for the development of state standards of Belarus based on international and European standards in the field of establishing requirements for environmentally safe packaging and its testing methods began two years ago. The document provides for the development of 41 state standards for biodegradability control methods, reusable packaging and recycled plastics, glass and paper packaging. Twenty-six state standards have already been developed. Eight standards aimed to ensure confirmation of the biodegradability of plastics in various conditions have been in force since April 1st, 2021.
“The remaining 18 standards will be put into effect in May–September this year,” Nataliya Parkovskaya, Deputy Head of the Technical Regulation and Standardisation Department of the State Committee for Standardisation, clarified.
Among them, for example, there are standards for reusable packaging for the transport of goods. Minimising the generation of waste from packaging will reduce the burden on the environment.
In addition, a standard for paper bags or liners used to collect household waste in view of the main municipal waste groups and their further disposal methods has been adopted.
To develop the production of packaging made of recyclable materials, 15 standards for glass packaging, paper bags and bin liners are being developed. It is planned to complete the development by September, 2022.