World Environment Day 2018 focused on beating plastic pollution. Host country India organised various events, clearly demonstrating its commitment to take the issue seriously and help raise awareness. Belgium and the EU also used the occasion to showcase their commitment to a cleaner environment.
India, host country of World Environment Day 2018 (June 5), was also the focus country of this year’s edition. Small and large events were held throughout the country to raise public awareness about environmental issues and pollution. An interesting five-day conference on environmental management took place in New Delhi.
The Belgian Embassy - in cooperation with the EU Delegation in New Delhi and all EU Member States' embassies - actively contributed to increase the visibility of the central theme: beating plastic pollution. While plastics have a wide range of applications, global resistance seems to be developing against single-use or disposable plastics, namely bottles, cups, straws, cotton buds, wrapping paper and bags.
While plastics have a wide range of applications, global resistance seems to be developing against single-use or disposable plastics, namely bottles, cups, straws, cotton buds, wrapping paper and bags.
EU inspires environmental management and technology
During the conference, the EU had the opportunity to share best practices from several of its Member States, including Belgium. The EU delegation explained their proposal to ban ten single-use plastic products. Existing circular economy and waste management policies and initiatives were also touched upon. Theese policies aim to reduce the waste volume and remove street litter, as well as to restore soils and waterways.
Dr. Hafeez Rehman from the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) commented on Belgium's role as a European pioneer in waste management and explained how our country is dealing with the challenge of plastic pollution within the EU context. Among other things, he mentioned the self-test method developed by the FPS Public Health that helps companies prevent the emission of microplastics into the environment. Dr. Rehman also cited the Zero Pellet Loss initiative and voluntary partnerships such as these of the Port of Antwerp where ship captains, producers and logistics companies have reached agreements to prevent plastic grains from getting into the environment.
At the invitation of the EU and at the request of the Indian Ministry of Environment, Mr Ruben Van Steenbrugge from Recupel, which organises the collection and processing of discarded electro-appliances in Belgium, gave an overview of the electronic waste treatment in Belgium. Electronic waste is an increasingly important waste flow, for which India is turning to Europe as an example of management. In October last year, the Indian Ministry of Environment visited Recupel. A workshop also allowed to identify a strong demand for European technology and know-how. The Indian government clearly marked its interest in the working and business model of Belgian recycling plants, although Indian officials also asked many questions about the practical feasibility in India of “selective waste collection and sorting”, the “polluter-pays principle”, the application of “differentiated rates” and the “take-back obligation” of companies.
The Indian government clearly marked its interest in the working and business model of Belgian recycling plants, although Indian officials also asked many questions about the practical feasibility in India.
In a session on international cooperation for cleaning up the river Ganga (National Mission for Clean Ganga), Belgium underlined its knowledge and know-how on technology, policy and trade solutions that can be used to fight water pollution and to develop the river basin. Our country also highlighted the existence of the Clean Ganga Europe Desk, a partnership between VITO and IIT Kanpur, launched in March last year. The purpose of this association is to foster the implementation of innovative and cost-efficient technologies by strengthening the dialogue between the Indian government, the European Commission and stakeholders in EU Member States.
Beat plastic pollution together
UNEP and its Executive Director Erik Solheim were very satisfied with the collaboration with India and the many awareness raising events that were organized throughout the country.. India announced that it would join the Clean Seas initiative to reduce pollution of marine ecosystems. It will also ban all single-use disposable plastics by 2022.
A “plogging” event (pick-up litter while jogging) was organised near the symbolic India Gate, which saw around 70 people from the diplomatic community participate.
In collaboration with the Swedish Embassy and the EU delegation, a “plogging” event (pick-up litter while jogging) was organised near the symbolic India Gate, which saw around 70 people from the diplomatic community participate. Finally, the EU delegation and the embassies of all Member States announced a “Green Pledge”. From now on, they will ban the use of disposable plastic in embassies and be more aware of their ecological footprint.