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On July 3rd, 2021, Greece’s ban on a large variety of single-use plastics came officially into effect. This was indeed an important milestone for the direction of the economy towards a more sustainable model, achieved in the framework of the transposition of the EU Single-Use Plastic Directive 2019/904 by Greek Law No. 4736/2020. Occasioned by such a development, we are very excited to announce that a research group was created under the auspices of the AthensPIL during the past months, in order to provide an in-depth analysis of the domestic environmental and waste management law and its conformity with EU and international law standards. 

The “inciting incident” for the above was the invitation to cooperate with other esteemed international colleagues for the “Clean Mediterranean Sea! – CMS!” project. The focus of the latter is the legal response of Mediterranean countries to marine plastic pollution, vis-a-vis  international standards. Marine plastic pollution, constituting a highly problematic reality, calls for targeted action, which is strongly linked to current international trends and national interests. The “Clean Mediterranean Sea! – CMS!” project is carried out under the aegis of the Vienna Forum für Democracy and Human Rights and supported by the Hermann and Marianne Straniak Foundation (Switzerland/Austria).

As highlighted through our research  – pending publication –, there is no special law or specific administrative act regulating marine plastic pollution. Thus, the latter is covered by the general provisions on environmental protection from any type of pollution or degradation. To this end, the core role is played by Law No. 1650/1986, which is the basic instrument in Greece that introduces criminal, civil, and administrative liability for environmental violations. However, the said Law is deemed rather general, thus, a number of domestic laws implementing EU directives and international conventions have enhanced and solidified it.

Indicatively, it is worth mentioning Law No. 3983/2011 (“National strategy for the protection and management of the marine environment”) which transposed the Directive 2008/56. To its implementation, the national programme of measures was published, through the adoption of a Ministerial Decision in December 2017. The national programme of measures serves as  the point of reference for the existing and proposed measures concerning, inter alia, the plastic pollution in Greek seas. Furthermore, with the aim of reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags, Law No. 4537/2018 and Law No. 4685/2020 (both transposing EU Directives) provided that consumers are required to pay an environmental fee per piece of plastic carrier bag. On top of the above, the aforementioned Law No. 4736/2020 prohibits the placing of certain single-use plastic products on the market. The prohibition will apply pursuant to the depletion of stocks and, in any case, no later than ten months after 3 July 2021, while it is provided that an environmental protection levy will be imposed on consumers for the use of the above.

All in all, the prompt transposition of the Directive 2019/904 by Greece as well as the promising national measures adopted, undoubtedly produce a positive precedent. This is only highlighted by the fact that Law No. 4736/2020 sets higher targets than the Directive itself. However, the challenging part of the complete and effective implementation of these measures, especially with regard to marine plastic pollution, remains to be seen. 

Our research team consists of: Efstathia Kosma, Eirini Zachariadi, Foivos Stathas, Giorgos Kouvaras, and Konstantina Meletiadou under the supervision of Professor Maria Gavouneli.

You can find more information about the project here.