Italy’s Plastic-Free Ministries And Embassies

Italy opened in Norway the first plastic-free embassy in the world

According to Censis, Italy is at the first place in Europe for the consumption of bottled water. This isn’t due to a poor quality of tap water, but to the general opinion that mineral water is safer and has better organoleptic properties.

Having said that, think about how much plastic is used and thrown away every day. And what this means in terms of waste disposal: the quantity of garbage is enormous and recycling amounts to nothing, if the separation of the materials isn’t followed by a wise reuse and a strong market of recycled products.

Are we doing something?

A couple of years ago, when I was in Bristol, in the United Kingdom, I went to one of the university libraries and found several drinking fountains inside. I was surprised, since I’m not used to finding them inside public buildings in Italy, where water is normally sold through vending machines. I thought that those fountains represented a great way of avoiding the use of disposable bottles and, why not, also a nice way of discouraging dehydration.

Fortunately, the Italian Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea Protection and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation are sending out positive signals. So, they co-developed a “plastic-free project” that aims to abolish single-use plastic.

The “plastic-free” project

They began to set a good example by implementing it inside their headquarters: the Ministry of the Environment was the first to do so; then, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs promoted a “Green Farnesina” — from the name of its government headquarter — by installing drinking fountains on every floor of the building and by giving water flasks to the personnel, in order to reduce plastic consumption by the average 2000 employees and visitors that the Ministry hosts every day. Apparently, “thanks to the environmentally sustainable practices put in place at the canteen, almost 2 tons of plastic and more than half a ton of aluminum were saved in 2018”. The Ministry’s goal for this year is to double the savings of 2018.

On March 4, the same project was launched by the Italian Embassy in Oslo and was inaugurated by Sergio Costa, the Minister of the Environment. On the same day, the Minister also discussed with his Norwegian counterpart about the marine waste problem, and they agreed upon the necessity of more international cooperation in order to find a common strategy.

With regard to universities, many have already joined the project. The hope is that the #StopSingleUsePlastic campaign will soon spread everywhere, starting from public administrations.

However, this good example shouldn’t remain such: let’s remember that we can all do our part by doing very simple things, such as starting to use water bottles, reducing the use of disposable plastic plates and cups, and employing reusable shopping bags.