PRESS RELEASE BY THE THE NATIONAL AUDIT OFFICE: Joint Report on Management of Plastic Waste in Europe

Auditor General Charles Deguara presented the Joint Report on “Management of Plastic Waste in Europe” to the Speaker Anġlu Farrugia. The Report based its findings and conclusions on twelve individual national audit reports, which were presented to the respective Parliaments by the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) of Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Malta, Moldova, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Turkey.   Malta’s national report, “The effectiveness of Plastic Waste Management in Malta” was published by the NAO in February 2021. 

The main objectives of this initiative were to analyse problems related to the management of plastic waste as well as to spur national governments to take preventive and corrective action in this area and raise public awareness of plastic pollution.  This cooperative audit, coordinated by the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) of Poland, was undertaken under the auspices of the European Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (EUROSAI) Working Group on Environmental Auditing.  

The joint report highlighted that plastic pollution is a serious threat to the environment as a whole. It creates problems for ecosystems including for human populations. Between six and almost 15 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the oceans each year. In addition, new sources of plastic leakage to the environment are being investigated, as these might pose threats to both the environment and human health. Microplastics—tiny fragments of plastic (less than 5 mm)—have been accumulating in the seas, and their small size makes them easy for marine life to ingest. Recent observations also indicate the presence of microplastics in the ambient air, rainwater, drinking water, some foods, and even in human blood. It is also worthwhile to note that plastic waste decomposes very slowly (up to several hundreds of years), which makes things even worse for future generations.

The main findings of the Report were categorised as follows:

1. Legislation and organisational arrangements concerning plastic waste management
2. Applied Policies in Order to Implement Proper Plastic Waste Management
3. Results of Implemented Plastic Waste Treatment Measures

This coordinated audit concluded that existing legislation and organisational arrangements were insufficient to reduce the generation of plastic waste and ensure its proper treatment. Thus, for the time being, the circular economy remains more prominent as a theoretical concept rather than a practical solution which has been fully adopted by the countries covered by the audit. The report also noted that the countries covered by this audit have reached different levels of systemic preparedness and progress in the implementation of waste management measures. 

Notwithstanding current positive results in particular cases, a substantial change will be needed in the waste management system to fully embrace the circular economy model.  To this end, more intensive measures will be required to encourage and persuade citizens to change their consumption patterns to reduce the use of plastic products and thus scale down the quantity of waste generated, and to re-use plastic products as far as possible.  

The Report can be accessed by visiting our website or on its Facebook page​.