Voluntary reduction strategies allow citizens time to change their consumption patterns and provide an opportunity for suitable alternatives to reach the market.
TARGET USERS: Individuals, Businesses, Industry, Government
KEY CONSIDERATIONS: The promotion and adoption of reusable bags is one such example of a voluntary reduction strategy where the choice lies with the consumer.
While cities assess their best policy options to reduce plastic pollution in their community, many regulatory policy instruments that have proven successful in developed economies, often experience strong opposition from well resourced industry, creating obstacles that can be difficult for cities to overcome.
Voluntary instruments allow for business and industry to develop codes of conduct and operating guidelines on their own accord, for which they are responsible for enforcing. Voluntary instruments can also be facilitated by government entities through voluntary agreements and Public-Private Partnerships.
Voluntary instruments can often deliver results in a more timely and cost-effective manner than can Regulatory instruments. They also allow greater flexibility for stakeholders to adapt to technological change and market sensitivities. However, the success of Voluntary instruments is fully reliant on aligned interests between industry and society as a whole; when interests are not aligned, industry is not compelled to voluntarily take the necessary actions without external influence, either by government action or by NGOs pressures.
Voluntary agreements often constitute a first step in exploring a new policy area, environmental policy issues which are not covered by existing regulations. Such agreements are typically used as a first policy step in dealing with emerging environmental challenges, and often viewed with a transitional function, until other regulations come into force.
Oslo's Plastic Manifesto
In Norway, the City of Oslo has launched a Plastic Manifesto to engage the private sector on plastic. The Plastic Manifesto is a declaration of intentions made by participating companies, outlining a company's plastic reduction targets and objectives. The City of Oslo (in partnership with other stakeholders) also provides participating companies with the tools, guidance and resources that they need to successfully achieve the Manifesto's intentions.
See https://plasticsmartcities.org/products/plastic-manifesto?_pos=1&_sid=c66d3c5a2&_ss=r to learn more.
In 2013, a voluntary agreement with regard to packaging waste prevention and recycling was signed in Romania between the Ministry of Environment and Forests and its distribution and recycling companies to develop tools for packaging waste prevention and improve recycling. The agreement’s goal was to increase the volume of packaging collected by 25%. The project is now implemented in 14 major cities in Romania and its deployment will continue progressively in other cities.
In the framework of this agreement, a new service was developed, Sigurec, which aims to improve recycling solutions around the country. One of its activities involves offering vouchers to clients in several supermarkets in Romania (Carrefour and Cora in 12 Romanian cities) when bringing end-of-life home appliances or plastic packaging. By collection containers, 450,000 tonnes of plastic and aluminum packaging were collected in one of the pilot cities (Buzau).
See other case study examples of voluntary agreements in the EU: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/enveco/resource_efficiency/pdf/studies/RE_in_Business_M4_VoluntaryAgreements.pdf
See voluntary agreement examples in the UK: http://wrap.org.uk/category/what-we-offer/voluntary-agreements
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