Guidelines for managing plastics and micro plastics

On October 21st, 2019, Resolution N  407/19 issued by the Secretary of the Government of Environment and Sustainable Development was published in the Official Gazette of the Argentina Republic, approving the guidelines for the environmentally sound management of plastics throughout their lifecycle.

Resolution N° 407/19 approved the guidelines tending to achieve environmental sound management of plastics throughout their lifecycle, in order to mitigate the advance of contamination of water bodies due to plastic and micro plastic waste and its consequent impact on the environment.

Guidelines for handling plastics

The following is a description of the guidelines proposed by the Secretary of the Government of Environment and Sustainable Development (‘‘SGAyDS’’ for its acronym in Spanish) for the environmentally sound management of plastics throughout their lifecycle, with focus on 5 work axes and 45 actions to be developed together with the competent authorities and other stakeholders.

1-    Patterns for the sustainable production of plastic

Currently, most business models are designed and optimized to fit the linear system, in which negative externalities in the environment are not included in the prices of the resources.

Incorporating circular options allows the value of resources to be preserved. The categories for the efficiency strategies are:

  • Extraction of materials: reduce new demands;
  • Material processing: reduce emissions and pollution;
  • Production: reduce the amount of materials, water, energy, packaging per product;
  • Use phase: increase life cycle average, slow resource cycles; make more efficient use by reducing losses and waste, close loops;
  • End- of- life treatment: increase material supplied by reuse, recycling and closure of resource cycles including energy recovery as a last resort.

2-    Guidelines to promote responsible use and consumption

Work should be done to reduce the single- use plastic articles and products that account for a significant proportion of all plastic used.

In the area of fisheries production, it is important to encourage the implementation of good practices to prevent fishing gear and plastic waste from being accidentally or intentionally dumped into bodies of water. To this end, management schemes should be established for fishing gear and its residues that guarantee the environmental management of these materials.

3-    Integral management of plastics waste and prevention of pollution derived from its use

Currently, the integral management of solid urban waste (‘‘RSU’’ for its acronym in Spanish) has not been achieved in all the municipalities of the country and the garbage present in the bodies of water is, to great extent, product of this.

It is necessary to consider the treatment of marine waste, and in particular plastic waste, form the point of view of prevention, taking action to prevent this material and other waste from reaching the sea, polluting it and generating a negative impact on marine biodiversity.

The integral options should consider prevention in generation as the first alternative, then minimization in quantity and danger, reuse, valorization of one or more of its components and in all its forms, total or partial, energy valorization, leaving the final disposal as the last alternative.

4-    In situ activities to mitigate marine garbage pollution in coastal and marine environments.

In terms of prevention measures, the management plans of municipalities and coastal cities should strengthen waste management tools, promoting the reduction, recycling and reuse of these materials.

In terms of mitigations, the implementation of periodic activities and waste collection campaigns on beaches and coastal areas is a useful tool. Also, the cleaning of water bodies is possible.

5-    Transversal tools for the fulfillment of the objectives

The development of specific regulations, the establishment of mechanisms for participation and coordination of the different relevant actors, the development of specific action plans and mechanisms for monitoring and follow- up of all actions are highlighted.

Actions to be carried out in each of the axis of work included in the guidelines of the SGAyDS

Line of work Nº 1: Guidelines for the sustainable production of plastic:

1.1        Promotion of productive innovation and sustainable production;

1.2        Promotion of research into more environmentally friendly materials such as biodegradable and compostable materials;

1.3        Use of alternative sources as raw material for the production of plastics;

1.4        Optimizing and reducing the use of plastics through the development of new technologies and eco- design to promote recycling;

1.5        Increase the use of recycled material in products;

1.6        Reduction of the use of substances hazardous to health and the environment in plastics;

1.7         Promotion of the production of reusable or recyclable plastic articles;

1.8         Promotion of correct labeling and identification of products;

1.9        Elimination of the use of primary micro plastics;

Line of work Nº 2: Guidelines to promote responsible use and consumption

2.1        Promotion of environmental education;

2.2    Development of information and awareness campaigns;

2.3 Encourage the reduction of the consumption of single- use plastic products;

2.4 Promotion of good practices in ports and fishing activities;

2.5        Reduction of waste generation;

2.6         Promotion of proper waste disposal;

2.7 Promotion of sustainable tourism.

Line of work Nº 3: Integral options for the sustainable management of plastics and the prevention of pollution arising from their use

3.1 Promotion of waste collection schemes encouraging differentiated collection;

3.2 Strengthening the infrastructure for waste disposal in public spaces;

3.3 Development of strategies to improve efficiency in recovery, reuse and the recycling of plastics;

3.4 Promotion of plastic recycling industry and the circular economy;

3.5 Promotion of Extended Producer Responsibility programmes (‘‘REP’’ for its acronym in Spanish);

3.6 Promotion of best environmental practices and technologies available for treatment and disposal of the different plastic wastes according to the contaminants that accompany them;

3.7 Erradication of open dumps;

3.8 Development of efficient port facilities;

3.9 Integration of informal waste collection and management sectors;

3.10 Appropriate management of hazardous plastic waste;

3.11 Improved wastewater treatment to remove micro- particles including micro plastics;

3.12 Work on runoff and storm water management.

Line of work Nº 4: In situ activities to mitigate marine litter pollution in coastal- marine environments

4.1 Implementation of standardized methods for collecting and analyzing comparable samples from global environmental monitoring;

4.2 Compilation and analysis of existing information and studies in the country on the problem, in particular impacts on threatened species and marine protected areas;

4.3 Strengthening of mechanisms for monitoring the state and quality of the environment;

4.4 Diagnosis of the situation and causes of the presence of marine garbage in critical areas such as the distribution of vulnerable marine species such as sea turtles or Franciscan dolphins;

4.5 Development of indicators that serve as a guide to measure the impact and prioritize the impacts, intervention actions;

4.6 Implementations of pollution prevention actions;

4.7 Cleaning of coastal and water areas.

4. 8 In situ activities to mitigate litter pollution in coastal marine environments;

4.9 Protection and conservation of biota.

Line of work N° 5: Transversal tools to achieving objectives

5.1 Increase of scientific knowledge, development of research capacity and transference of technology;

5.2 Promotion of legislation and strengthening of regulatory framework;

5.3 Strengthening of control and inspection instruments;

5.4 Development of technical guides and tools;

5.5 Promotion of women’s and children’s leadership;

5.6 Strengthening of coordination and information Exchange mechanisms;

5.7 Coordination and involvement of other actors such as the private sector and civil society;

5.8 Establishment and implementation of local, national regional and global action plans;

5.9 Communication of results, effects and achievements.

For further information on this topic please contact María Morena Del Río, Carola del Rosario Pignatelli and Martín A. Prieto