Za Zemiata / Friends of the Earth Bulgaria activists dressed in plastic bag costumes greeted Europe’s environment ministers yesterday in Sofia, demanding a ‘retirement plan’ for plastic bags – as politicians gathered for an Environmental Council meeting.
The Plastic Free campaign, joint with Greenpeace Bulgaria, is aiming to restrict single-use plastics in Bulgaria – especially plastic bags that have proliferated in the country in the last five years, causing pollution of water and the Black Sea. Scientists have shown that the Bulgarian Black Sea coast is among the most polluted with microplastics in the world.
Danita Zarichinova from Za Zemiata / Friends of the Earth Bulgaria, said:
“Bulgarian Environment Minister Neno Dimov has so far ignored citizens’ petitions and letters, and failed to take action to limit single-use plastic bags, bottles, cups and other major pollutants, and these have contributed to growing plastic pollution in the Black Sea. The minister's disappointing lack of initiative contradicts his declared priorities as rotating chairperson of the EU’s environment council.”
The Plastic Free campaign says the number of plastic bags sold in Bulgaria has doubled since 2010, from less than 5kg per person in 2010 to 10kg in 2016 – equivalent to 2-3 plastic bags per person every day. This contradicts the Bulgarian government’s claims that plastic bag consumption in Bulgaria is falling. Existing eco-taxes plastic bags are ineffective, as the 0.28€ charge on plastic bags excludes the most common lights plastic shopping bags.
“Dimov needs to act fast if he is to fulfill Bulgaria’s legal obligation to make sure that lightweight plastic carrier bags are not provided free of charge at the point of sale by the end of this year,” continued Zarichinova.
Campaigners allege that Bulgaria is in breach of the EU’s Plastic Bags Directive. Lack of transparency is part of the problem – and the Bulgarian Environment Ministry does not disclose the positions it takes in EU Council meetings nor respond to inquiries from NGOs. There is no public information about the quantities of plastic bags that are recycled, incinerated, landfilled or littered in the country, nor about how the government spends the small income collected from eco-taxes since 2011.
Alongside the PlasticFree message, more activists highlighted Bulgaria's heavy air pollution problem and reminded Ministers of the danger to Pirin National Park.