Design a plastic-reduction strategy and bring decision-makers on board
The concluding webinar of the UBC TALKS series in 2023 hosted the experts and city representatives who shared valuable insights on advancing sustainable practices in plastic waste management within the municipalities. The webinar was organized by the UBC Sustainable Cities Commission, in support of the ambitious Interreg BSR BALTIPLAST project aiming to tackle single-use plastic waste. The event featured experts from the lead partner of the BALTIPLAST project – Hamburg University of Applied Sciences and local partners – Västerås, Helsinki, and Tallinn, shedding light on strategies, challenges, and successful initiatives in managing plastic waste.
Local perspectives to single-use plastic reduction
The Hamburg University of Applied Sciences was represented by the project manager Andrea Dobri. She opened up the problem of the plastic waste and its current state in the Baltic Sea Region context, continuing with the introduction of aims, goals and mission of the BALTIPLAST project.
The city of Västerås, one of the most advanced cities of the region in the sustainable handling of the plastic, was represented by Olof Bergold, environmental strategist. He introduced the steps taken by city of Västerås since 2020 with symbolic actions, gaining political support through systemic approach and introduction of hard facts which resulted in adoption of the Action plan for a sustainable use of plastics.
"We try to make it easy for people to start working with plastic. We made guides for different departments and we try to keep departments involved,"
— Olof Bergold
The city of Helsinki was represented by project manager Rasmus Boman. He emphasized the challenge of identifying the biggest littering sources, developing the indicators to measure the achievements, involvement of the relevant stakeholders and practical actions in addressing plastic waste, highlighting the effectiveness of preventing the plastic waste on the early stages.
“You can’t throw anything away if there’s nothing to throw away,”
— Rasmus Boman
The city of Tallinn – European Green Capital 2023, was represented by Liina Kanarbik, chief specialist in circular economy. She introduced the initiatives to promote sustainable events and reduce plastic waste, highlighting the guidelines for organizing eco-friendly events, involving stakeholders in testing initiatives, and implementing regulations banning single-use plastic at public events. Liina shared insights into the challenges faced and emphasized the significance of involving all stakeholders, including the public, in the transition to reusable solutions.
"We had a lot of meetings with city institutions and event organisers before, during and after the events to see, which requirements are easy to follow and which should be changed,"
— Liina Kanarbik
How to design a strategy and bring decision-makers on board
The presentations were followed by a fruitful discussion among the panelists, which emphasized the significance of collaborative efforts involving various stakeholders, including government officials, service providers, and citizens. The panelists underscored the importance of communication campaigns to raise awareness and earn political support. Aligning local strategies with the EU sustainability goals was considered essential, showcasing a commitment to broader initiatives.
When it comes to addressing plastic waste comprehensively, speakers stressed the importance of implementing both small symbolic gestures and substantial measures. Workshops and discussions were highlighted as effective tools to engage decision-makers and build a shared understanding. Public pressure was mentioned as a powerful impulse for driving political will, with citizens demanding impactful changes.
The transnational cooperation, facilitated by projects like the BALTIPLAST, emerged as a valuable platform for knowledge sharing. The panelists discussed the benefits of piloting the actions within the project that could be later expanded. The UBC Sustainable Cities Commission encourages sharing this valuable information, contributing to the ongoing dialogue on sustainable practices across the Baltic Sea Region.
The last webinar of this year has also marked the anniversary 20th edition of the UBC TALKS series, we would like to thank all the attendees of this webinar and the series as whole. The UBC TALKS series aims to continue addressing sustainability topics, offering a platform for Baltic Sea Region cities to share experiences and advance collectively in making the cities more resilient and sustainable. UBC TALKS in 2024 will start at the end of winter, follow our events not to miss it!