This may be the last summer that Norwegians can buy disposable plastic items like spoons, forks, knives and cups for picnics or camping trips. Climate and Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen proposes a ban on sales that may take effect next year, ahead of an EU ban in 2021.
“I want to ban sales of these plastic things for one-time use as quickly as possible,” Elvestuen said over the weekend while taking part in clean-up events around Oslo. He helped pick up trash along the Alna River trail and on the beach at Huk on Bygdøy, and found far too much plastic dumped outdoors.
“Plastic in the nature severely injures animals, birds and fish,” Elvestuen said. “Folks are making an effort to clean up, but in order to solve the problem we have to stop the sale and use of more plastic.”
Elvestuen represents the Liberal Party in Norway’s otherwise conservative government coalition, which has a majority in Parliament. He firmly believes that a ban is “the right way to go,” arguing that the plastic items “we will now prohibit” are “unnecessary” because more environmentally friendly alternatives are available.
Several restaurants in Norway, including the large McDonalds hamburger chain, have already done away with plastic straws for drinks and replaced them with straws made of paper. Others have also introduced utensils like forks and knives that are made of wood, while even venerable Q-Tips and increasing numbers of their copy-cat producers are converting to cotton-tipped paper pins, not plastic.
Norway’s ban will be based on regulations that the EU is expected to soon approve and enforce from 2021. Even though Norway is not a member of the EU, it must adhere to most all EU rules through its EØS/EEA trade agreement with the EU. “We don’t see any reason to wait (for the EU rules to take effect),” Elvestuen said. “We’re starting work on this now.”
His ministry is also working with business and environmental organizations to address restrictions on other disposable plastic items, with proposals due by September 15. The issues will go to hearing this fall, with the goal of having actual bans and restrictions take effect from next year.