Environmentally friendly shopping is an awareness raising campaign to reduce packaging waste production, with special focus on returnable bottles promotion.

This project is a co-operative project prepared by partner organisations:

- Zielone Mazowsze - from Poland

- Life Foundation - from Romania

Co-operation in this project was also declared by 2 organisations from Denmark:

- Kopenhauns Miljo- og Energikantor

- NOAH - Friends of the Earth Denmark

The leading organisation is "Zielone Mazowsze".

Problem description

Introduction

One of the most acute environmental problems of Central European Countries is the huge waste production. Countries under transition have increased the amount of waste production significantly during recent years. The most remarkable trend is the increase of packaging content among the whole waste volume. Both in Poland and Romania, as well as in other CEE countries we can observe now this phenomenon.

This tendency stems from the disappearance of traditional returnable packaging in shops and their replacement by throwaways, which turn into trash directly after one use. Due to the increase of consumption and the change of consumers' habits, who prefer now to buy in single-use packages, the volume of waste generated has raised rapidly. The reason for such a trend is clearly connected with lack of environmental awareness among consumers, who are not well informed about the consequences of their day-to-day decision-making.

This problem drew the attention of the environmental NGO's, because the increase of the post-packaging waste does not result from any objective needs or reasonable motives of consumers. It is derived from the change of consumption patterns and packaging technologies. More environmentally sound technologies and systems, for example returnable bottles can still be used and hold a large share in the markets of western European countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark.

Since the production of this type of waste depends on the consumers' personal habits and on the decisions of each individual, the problem is very appropriate to be addressed by environmental NGOs.

Returnable bottles are being eliminated from the market, due to producer / consumer preference of disposable bottles. Just two months ago the last company in central Poland that produced juices gave up production in returnable bottles. In 1-2 years it is possible that there will be completely no reusable bottles on the market. There is a big threat that Poland and Romania will not follow Germany, Denmark, Austria and Netherlands's examples, but Italy, France and Great Britain's - European countries, which use disposable bottles in the greatest percentage. It is high time to act!

Why do we see the problem of packaging waste as such an important issue?

- Waste from packaging amounts in European countries up to about 20% of total waste weight and up to 40% of total waste volume.

- Packaging waste - like plastic and glass bottles, cans, plastic bags - is not biodegradable and remains in the landfill for many years

- The production of packages has grown in Poland and Romania by 50% from 1992 and is growing 3% annually. Now it is 40 kg per person per year.

- They are not necessary - the alternatives are well known. So they are quite easy to avoid

- Since the avoidance of over-packaging depends on daily decisions of each individual, it requires an awareness raising campaign, which is an especially appropriate task for ecological NGOs.

What do we want to do?

This situation encouraged the Green Federation and the Life Youth Foundation to plan a common project intended to promote environmentally responsible behaviour among Polish and Romanian citizens. We want to draw consumers' attention to the impact of their daily decisions on the environment. Our project will help the production of beverages in returnable bottles in our countries to remain on the market and to be developed.

What is the scope of our activities?

The main subject we want to focus on is promotion of returnable bottles. Beside this we will promote paper and cotton bags to replace plastic bags, carton dishes and bio dishes to replace plastic dishes. We will appeal to avoid all disposable packages: like plastic bottles, aluminium cans, TetraPak and overpackaging - fruits or meat on PS-plates, plastic plates inside carton packages (sweets) etc.

Why the regional co-operation is the best way to solve this problem?

All countries represented by NGOs taking part in the project are in different situations in relation to law regulations. In all countries Council Directive 1994/62/EC of December 1999 on packaging and packaging waste is either in legal force now, or will be once they enter the EU.

In Denmark the Council Directive 1994/62/EC is in force. Furthermore, Denmark is well known from its' good packaging regulations which are far more strict than EU directives. One of the most important regulations that exists in Danish law is obligation to produce beverages and beer only in returnable bottles. Neither beverages nor beer in cans or single-use bottles are allowed to enter the Danish market. Therefore Denmark can serve the Central European countries as an example and will provide us with model solutions, which we will promote in our countries.

Poland is now adopting Council Directive 1994/62/EC, and a new parliament act has been recently passed. It has some good regulations, for example percentage minima for recovering of packaging, and an obligation to provide drinks in returnable bottles in all bigger shops. The problem is how to introduce these regulations into daily life, because in Poland the law is not always well implemented.

Romania is just beginning to adopt European waste regulations. So the main task is to lobby for a quicker introduction of the regulations.

These 3 types/stages of situation in our countries give us an opportunity to exchange experiences, good practice examples and information between co-operating NGOs.

The waste problem is an international problem and all CEE countries are in a similar situation in the way of dealing with it. We think that it is very reasonable to do a common project, attempting to solve the common problem. Poland and Romania apply to join the European Union and in both cases environmental protection is one of the major weak points in negotiations. The EU requirements for waste management will be difficult to implement and therefore the co-operation between Poland and Romania aimed at waste reduction should contribute to solving this problem.

The Danish partners will be play an important role here, since Denmark is already a member of the EU and has much stronger waste regulations. Denmark will provide us with a good example, which we will promote in Romania and Poland.

On the other hand the waste production and packaging production per person in Poland and Romania is still nearly 2 times less than in Denmark. Denmark, contrary to Poland and Romania applies waste incineration, which is environmentally harmful. So the experience flow will be in both directions.

Therefore we claim that co-operation between Denmark, Romania and Poland on the waste subject is highly desirable.

Moreover the co-operation between these three countries will lead to the development of the participating NGOs, enhancement of NGOs skills and transfer of their experience. Thanks to that we will be able to make a stronger campaign. By doing this campaign on an international level we will also raise public awareness, that waste is more than a local or regional problem, it is an international problem.

Dream vision

The ultimate goal of our organisations is a zero waste society.

That means that the production and consumption should be organised by the following rules:

- Reduce all products which will end their life in garbage

- Reuse all products that are not possible to reduce.

- Recycle all products that were not possible to reuse.

- If something is left and is not possible to recycle - that means it was wrongly designed and industry should redesign it.

Short-term goals

In order to come closer to our dream vision we decided for the following short-term goals:

- Stoppage of increasing of waste "production",

- Increase the use of returnable bottles in Poland and Romania,

- Increase the use of environmentally friendly packaging - paper bags, carton packs, biological plates, etc.

Measures

To achieve these goals we planned to do the following:

- To influence the behaviour of people by an awareness raising campaign,

- To give consumers the opportunity of choice, by ensuring the presence of returnable bottles and other ecological packaging on the market, by co-operating with producers and shops, and lobbying for introduction (Romania) or implementation (Poland) of regulations on packaging and waste management.

Both measures have to be taken simultaneously, because we have to deal with a kind of vicious circle now: shopkeepers do not like returnable bottles because they are not sure if people will buy them, people do not buy them because they are hardly ever present in the shops, producers do not want to produce them because shopkeepers do not order them, etc.

Tasks

To realise the two aforementioned points we planned a schedule of campaign, which we plan both in Poland and Romania. Partner organisations will fit this general plan to local conditions. The activities taken during the campaign will consist of the following tasks:

Changing behaviours

The awareness raising campaign will consist of:

- a series of actions which will demonstrate the problems via the media;

- ongoing co-operation with the media;

- a competition for the public;

- editing of leaflets and brochures;

- education at schools;

- a common web page in Polish, Romanian and English.

The main target groups for campaign should be: youth and children (because they consume the most, especially drinks and sweets, are more open to ecological education and have long life for them...) and women (because in Poland and Romania mainly they do shopping).

Giving consumers a choice

To ensure the presence of returnable bottles and other ecological packaging on the market we will:

- Convince a number of shopkeepers to introduce returnable bottles and ecological packaging. This can be achieved only if we are able to show them the gains. Our idea is to prepare a special program of promotion. All shops, which join the program and introduce the full variety of products in returnable bottles and ecological packaging, will receive posters Don't overpay! Here you can buy cheaper! - in returnable bottles with the address of the shop, which they can put up in the neighbourhood. This could be interesting for participating shops, because they will be shown as cheaper options than other shops and people who come to buy drinks will probably buy other things too. Additionally, most of the small shops do not advertise at all - so it will be a new opportunity for them to increase their incomes.

- Create a competition for shopkeepers. Competition is a very effective marketing method used by wholesalers. When the shopkeeper is personally interested in the sales of this special product and not others of the same type, the sales are larger.

- Lobby the producers to convince them not to stop the production in ecological packages, to promote these kinds of products or to introduce these kinds of packaging, when they do not use them.