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News Archive » Guidelines to phase out single-use plastic bags in the Mediterranean adopted by the Barcelona Convention – gaining momentum to abate them!

Guidelines to phase out single-use plastic bags in the Mediterranean adopted by the Barcelona Convention – gaining momentum to abate them!

23rd January 2020 | Updated: 2nd March 2020
  • COP21 of the Barcelona Convention (2-5 December 2019) has approved these guidelines, together with other marine litter related ones, all included under Decision IG.24/11. Hence, the Contracting Parties are committed to make best use of these guidelines.
  • They have been elaborated by SCP/RAC following an extensive review of international cases, hands on work in a number of Mediterranean countries, and following national experts’ consultation meetings.
  • This adoption supports SCP/RAC work and calls for further efforts to abate single-use of plastics in the region

The guidelines intend to provide a common understanding of the set of measures that can be considered in developing the most appropriate legal and regulatory framework to introduce the non-single use of plastic bags in the signatory countries of the Barcelona Convention. While these guidelines focus on the full process of decision making, from absence of actions to reduce SUPB to a comprehensive programme to tackle them, they can also be used to complement and strengthen actions in countries where the process is on-going. In fact, experiences show loopholes and obstacles in different countries and these guidelines intend to contribute in overcoming them. The guidelines build on the review and lessons learnt of international cases, considering the context in the Mediterranean region and specific actions supported by UN Environment/Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) components in some of the countries.

These guidelines introduce the subject by explaining the scope of the guidelines and why SUPB is a marine litter item of high concern. Later, the three main categories of policy measures are briefly explained and compared. Next, the document describes comprehensively an 8-steps roadmap towards phasing-out single use plastic bags. Finally, they include master templates of the legal instruments, presented in the annexes to these guidelines to facilitate the policy making process.

An important section of the guidelines concerns the promotion of sound alternatives. It is particularly discussed the option of biodegradable/compostable bags, highlighting the needed conditions under which this alternative would make sense. In fact, in the absence of bio-waste management in place, the fate of these bags would not be so different to the one of conventional bags.

They are available for download in English  and French.

Additionally, an information document was produced in English  and in French  for background information in the consultation meetings, which includes a review of cases where the different policy measures are implemented to reduce single-use plastic bags.

More information

This work was part of the Marine Litter Med project. The overall objective of this EU-funded project was to support UNEP-MAP/Barcelona Convention and its Contracting Parties to prevent and manage marine litter through the implementation of the Marine Litter Regional Plan adopted by COP 18 of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols, Istanbul, 2013.

The work on these guidelines has been implemented by the Regional Activity Centre for Sustainable Development and Production (SCP/RAC). SCP/RAC has an official mandate from the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention to engage in international cooperation with Mediterranean countries on the prevention of plastic pollution, including marine litter and on the development and innovation in the business sector.




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