Can Split go plastic-free at public events too?

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Did you know that Croatia, along with 16 other member states, received a warning from the EU Commission for failing to implement the Directive on Single-Use Plastics (SUP Directive)? Despite the existence of the Waste Management Act (NN 84/21), which is aligned with this directive, many of the bans from the Act are not being enforced.

Public events are clear evidence of the non-implementation of the SUP Directive. Festivals, concerts, fairs, and sports events often use huge amounts of single-use plastic cups, cutlery, and other products.

What is prohibited by law?

Here are the single-use plastic items that are prohibited from being placed on the market in Croatia:
• cutlery
• plates
• straws
• sticks for attaching to balloons and holding them
• drink stirrers
• food containers made of expanded polystyrene
• beverage containers and cups made of expanded polystyrene, including their caps and lids.
Such products are often used at public events. Can you remember when and where you saw these products in use?
Due to the amount of single-use plastic used, public events represent one of the major obstacles to effective waste management. Considering the warning and the seriousness of the global challenge of plastic pollution, stricter supervision and monitoring of the use of these items can be expected.

Public events – generators of single-use plastic

Due to the large number of service providers, various types of services and products offered, and the high number of visitors, organizers often resort to the most practical immediate solutions – single-use plastic cups.
Restaurateurs resort to practical and inexpensive solutions due to the scale of public events, but also because beverage distributors often provide them with single-use cups for free. Such cups are cheap, don’t need to be washed, and after use, they are no longer our problem, right?

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However, that is to not the case. Sunce has been warning for years about pollution and the importance of reducing single-use plastics and waste in general. Keep in mind that most plastics cannot be recycled and that all plastic ever produced still exists on Earth. Microplastics can be found in soil, ocean and even in our food.
Managing waste at public events is a challenge that organizers and visitors should address as soon as possible. We have calculated that during Advent, at one Advent booth, at least 100 single-use cups are used daily. If reusable solutions were used during Advent alone, more than 3,000 cups per booth could be saved.

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Alternative solutions

Restaurateurs often wonder if there’s a practical alternative solution. There is! Reusable solutions are always a better and more cost-effective option in the long run. Reusable products are of higher quality, more practical, reduce unnecessary waste generation. When it comes to events, they can also serve as an additional marketing tool and souvenir that will remind visitors of their experience.
Instead of single-use plastic products, it is possible to use items made from compostable materials. However, it is crucial to be careful and thoroughly examine the composition of such products to avoid falling into greenwashing trap. Although it is commonly believed that all paper cups are compostable, this is not true. Certain paper cups have a plastic lining and contain harmful PFAS chemicals, which categorize them as single-use plastics under EU directives.

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Good practice examples: reusable cups

The Croatian company CupUp produces reusable polypropylene personalized cups and delivers them to required locations. Many organizers of various events across Croatia use a deposit system where visitors initially purchase a cup and can receive a refund at the end or take it home with them.

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The largest public event without single-use plastic in Split is held at Poljud Stadium. During Hajduk soccer matches, fans obtain reusable plastic cups on deposit, which they can keep as souvenirs. Considering the number of people attending matches, this is an example that best confirms how such an environmentally friendly organization method is quite feasible and cost-effective.
Zadvarski šušur, a program organized by the municipality of Zadvarje every summer, is also an example of good practice because it provides its visitors with reusable plastic cups through a deposit system. Visitors receive a cup with the purchase of a ticket for concerts that are part of the program and additional cups can be purchased for 2 euros each.

Since 2020, concerts organized by the Šibenik Fortress of Culture also practice the use of reusable cups through a deposit system. Šibenik Fortress of Culture is a public institution managing the St. Michael’s Fortress, Barone Fortress, St. John’s Fortress, Arsen House of Art and the Croatian Coral Center in Zlarin. They organize 500-600 events annually and take great pride in Šibenska Adventura, the first plastic-free Advent fair, which has prevented over 200,000 plastic cups, plates, and utensils from ending up in nature for years.

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Author: Damira Kalajžić

San Sustipanske noći in Split is an example of good practice for the second year in a row. The event promotes the use of reusable plastic cups through a deposit system. This year paper ashtrays were also distributed as part of the festival. Additionally, the bringing in of plastic and glass bottles was prohibited, which was monitored by security guards at the entrance. Also, throughout the entire festival, a ranger from the Public Institution Park Forest Marjan, under whose jurisdiction this area is, was also there.

Good practice example: glass

Many events also offer their visitors glass cups, typically through a deposit system. This is most commonly seen at specialized events such as beer or wine festivals.
For example, SMASH Split Beer Fest provides its visitors with reusable glass SMASH cups upon entry, allowing them to taste unlimited beers without plastic affecting the flavor.

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In Imotski, the traditional Cvit razgovora festival, known as the kujundžuša wine festival, is held, where visitors purchase a glass upon arrival. With glass purchase they get to taste the wines offered by participating wineries.
We can also point out the Day of Mali Ston Oyster on Pelješac peninsula. Visitors obtain glass wine glasses on deposit and later they can return them or take home as souvenirs.
As for bars, Kava2 can be cited as an example of good practice because it encouragesn customers to use reusable solutions. Specifically, guests who bring their own cup when ordering coffee to-go, instead of taking a paper or plastic cup from the café, pay a lower price for their coffee!

Some events allow you to bring your own reusable cups to public gatherings if they have measurement markings. Check if the event you plan to attend this summer allows this option.

Can Split become an example of good practice?

This city, rich in history and culture, can become an example of public events without single-use plastics through raising environmental awareness and the joint effort of all participants. Change is not always easy, but it is necessary for preserving the environment for future generations.

Every citizen can be part of this transformation, from restaurateurs to visitors of public events. United, we can achieve significant changes.

You can be part of the change too! As part of the Together Without Plastic campaign, we have created a questionnaire to gather information on practices at public events in Split. Contribute to our campaign by filling out the questionnaire.

If you notice that public events in Split lack adequate containers for all waste fractions or encounter an environmental issue, report it to us by calling (or emailing) the Green Phone.