Capri tourists to be fined €500 for using plastic – will other destinations follow?

Annabel Fenwick Elliott
The Italian island is desperate to preserve its beauty - mikolajn

Single-use plastic is no longer welcome on the Italian island of Capri, many will be pleased to hear.

Tourists will from this month face steep fines of up to €500 (£430) should they be caught using non-biodegradable plastic bags, single-use plastic plates, cups, straws and cutlery.

Capri's mayor Giovanni De Martino told the Times “It’s a big change, but if we are saving the environment I don’t think anyone will complain.”

It follows the same legislation introduced in the Tremiti islands, an archipelago off Italy's east coast, last year.

Its mayor, Antonio Fentini, said at the time: "I'm calling on the mayors of all islands and coastal areas to follow suit."

More than two million tourists visit Capri each year Credit: getty

This summer, officials on both islands will be distributing free water flasks in advance of next year, when plastic bottles will join the black list. Plastic bottles are one of the largest contributors to plastic pollution, with some 480bn them were sold globally in 2016 – more than one million per minute.

the Italian region of Puglia, too, is prohibiting the use of all plastic picnic apparatus on its beaches. France has gone one further, with a nationwide ban on single-use plastic picnicware coming into effect next year.

According to Greenpeace, 90 per cent of the rubbish found in the Mediterranean sea is plastic. The region has one of the highest concentrations of microplastics anywhere in the world.

Elsewhere in the world, the Philipine island of Boracay - which closed in 2018 after overtourism reduced it to a "cesspool" in the words of its own mayor - has reopened with stringent new rules.

Single-use plastics are banned from the island, with any hotel, resort or restaurant caught breaching the policy three times to lose its licence. Visitors have been told to bring their own straws, and that plastic bags will be prohibited. 

As for travel operators, Thomas Cook last year pledged to remove 70 million single-use plastics from its resorts, making it one of the world's largest holiday operators to do so. And Sir Richard Branson has promised to ban all plastic from the Virgin Voyages cruise line he's launching in 2022.

Boracay was once a quiet, untouched paradise until tourists descended Credit: getty

Airlines, too, are making an effort to cut back on their waste. In December, the world's first plastic-free flight took to the skies, operated by Portuguese airline Hi Fly, which announced it could "no longer ignore" the impact the single-use material has on the environment.

Today, Qantas became the first-ever commercial flight to produce zero landfill waste, on its way from Sydney to Adelaide. It's part of the Australian carrier's plan to cut 100 million single-use plastics by the end of 2020.

These initiatives are not without their challenges. Last month, Etihad operated its first ever plastic-free flight, between Abu Dhabi and Brisbane, as part of its own mission to reduce use of the material by 80 per cent over the next three years. Jamal Al Awadhi, Etihad’s vice president of guest experience, said it was extremely difficult to locate plastic-free alternatives for many of its amenities.

In Britain, the reality is bleak. According to the Great British Beach Clean group, for every 100 metres of British beach, there are more than 200 plastic or polystyrene items.

In February, MPs presented the draft of a new bill to Parliament which called for a total UK ban on all "non-essential" plastic by 2042. It proposes a blanket ban on all but the most essential plastics, such as those needed in healthcare or for safety, as well as an end to single-use plastics such as coffee cups, takeaway packaging and plastic cutlery by 2025.

A YouGov poll for Friends of the Earth revealed that nearly nine in ten people (89 per cent) support the legislation.

Do you support strict laws that dramatically reduce single-use plastic? If not, why? Let us know in the comment box below.