Taking initiative for a greener Europe

Green Week focused on applying environmental legislation

Eleonora de Sabata and Stella de Sabata

Calling on “Taking Initiative”, the Green Week in Brussels, Europe's major environmental event, again gathered hundreds of scientists, people from the business and the non-government sectors, European institutions officials, environment experts, to debate on pressing issues for Europe and for the planet.

Held from 15 to 17 May, the main focus of this year's get-together was set on how environmental laws, that hugely impact people's lives, are applied across Europe. A month ago the Commission released a series of reports on the state of implementation of environmental laws in the EU.

EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella underlined that the full implementation of EU environmental legislation could save the EU economy around €55bn every year. That's a composite figure, covering health costs and costs to the environment, he made clear, adding that it factors in all the relevant areas, from air quality and nature, to water, waste and industrial emissions. Taken together, it's an enormous, needless cost, a bill that we are paying for our wasteful ways, he stated.

A lot of outstanding projects were showcased at the exhibition area of the event. The Clean Sea Life project aims to increase awareness about marine litter, one of the major threats to marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea. Eleonora de Sabata recalled the role of the project in identifying the source of the spill from a water treatment plant of tens of millions of small plastic discs used for purifying water. After an incident, these discs went out to the sea, appeared on the beaches, even reached Malta. The map that the project created was very helpful for the investigators.

Stella de Sabata touched upon how the project helps for improving the legislation. We talk to general public, to other stake holders in the waste chain and with authorities, she said and showed a big jar with plastic sticks buds found on Italian beaches. The good news is that as of 1 January 2019 it is outlawed to sell plastic cotton buds and they are now made of cardboard. So this type of waste will be less, she stressed. The other 'haul' also in big quantities is of cigarette butts. The collection contains also microplastic from body scrub. The companies have already changed this ingredient with a natural one, Stella specified and added that from next year there will be a ban for producing and selling goods with microplastic.

At the next stand, Lucja Orlow-Gozdowka is presenting Mazowieckie Voivodeship, Warsaw, and also a locally run Life supported project on wetlands conservation and restoration in “Puszcza Kampinoska” Natura 2000 site. Besides rehabilitation of 125 ha of land in the Natura 2000 network site via land purchases from private owners, the water content in soil will be increased on some 6,000 ha.

Transformation Action Award is again on the horizon and Laura Dolazza from ICLEI - Local governments for sustainability, reminded the representatives of local authorities that the deadline for application is 31 July of this year. It is given to a city, region or civil society organisation which implements the 15 pathways outlined in the Basque Declaration.

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