NORWAY is to become one of the first countries in the world to completely ban the use of disposable single-use plastic cutlery.

The Norwegian government plans to outlaw the use of disposable plastic plates, cutlery, and straws. Plastic earbuds and more single-use plastic items will also be banned. At the weekend approximately 40,000 people took part in beach cleaning sessions across the country. They found tends of thousands of disposable plastic items.

The cleaners included Ola Elvestuen, Norway’s minister of climate and environment, who commented on NRK television: “These is no need for these items to be plastic. Therefore, we try to get a ban on it before next summer.

“We want to do this as quickly as we can. We hope this is the last summer where plastic cutlery is allowed.”.

Norway, which is not part of the European Union, nevertheless has to follow EU rules, but in dealing with plastic pollution the Norwegians are ahead of the game.

For example, Norway has put forward a proposal for stronger control of the international trade in plastic wastes which has developed into a large global multi-million pound industry, currently outside any international regulations.

Only an estimated between 9-12% of plastic waste is recycled on a global level. Many countries lack the capacity for the environmentally sound disposal of wastes such as single-use plastics.

Norway wants to help implement stronger control of national export and import policies in a bid to safeguard the environment.

Elvestuen said: “There is a huge pressure on a number of developing countries to import plastic wastes. Lack of capacity to process large amounts of plastic wastes increases the risk of plastic waste ending up in the environment.

“Our proposal will give the authorities a means to better control the sorts and amounts of plastic wastes entering their countries.”

Proposals for annual culture capital in Malta

The National:

ONE of the smallest countries in Europe in terms of population, Malta, could soon have a different culture capital every year.

Inspired by the success of nation’s capital Valletta being chosen as a European City of Culture last year, the idea is for a town or even a village across the islands of Malta and Gozo to be designated as cultural capital for the year.

The plan has been put forward by the Maltese government’s ruling Labour Party party ahead of the local council elections which come up later this month, when Malta will also go to the polls to elect its six members of the European Parliament – the same number that Scotland has despite having less than a tenth of Scotland’s population, a fact explained by Malta being an independent country.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat launched Labour’s council manifestos, which included localised programmes, on Monday.

The eye-catching proposals for annual cultural capitals was one of a number of initiatives Muscat announced.

The Times of Malta reported: “The government is considering a system whereby different towns and villages will be designated cultural capital for a year and will be the focus of a variety of cultural events by the central government.”

Opinion polls show that Labour has a 15-point lead over the main opposition Nationalist Party – which has accused Labour of rehashing some of its policies and said only its members have the interests of local councils at heart.

European elections suffer from low turnout as in most EU countries, but Labour are expected to easily retain the three seats of out Malta’s six which they currently hold.

Malta Today reported that Muscat’s personal rating has climbed back above the 50% mark, reflecting the Labour Party’s higher poll numbers.

£2.6bn broadband boost for Ireland

The National:

IRELAND is to spend €3 billion (£2.6bn) on bringing broadband connections to its rural areas.

The plan was approved at a Cabinet meeting yesterday where the Taioseach, Leo Varadkar, promoted the project which he supports.

Under the National Broadband Plan, which has been in development for seven years, Ireland aims to bring high-speed internet to more than 1.1 million people in 540,000 homes, farms and businesses across rural parts of the country.

The project has been controversial with cost overruns the subject of much criticism.

The Irish Times is reporting that the plan will be overseen by a consortium led by Irish-American billionaire businessman David McCourt and controlled by a new company called National Broadband Ireland.

Varadkar commented: “As Taoiseach, it’s my job to imagine the future and think about what it’s going to look like.

“When I do that, I think of things like homeworking. Already some multi-nationals employ a quarter of their staff from home. They require high-speed broadband and secure connections. At the moment, many people living in rural Ireland are excluded.

“I have seen students in small rural and island schools being able to study subjects like physics by video-link to a larger school. This will be even more common in the future. As a doctor, I am fascinated by technological developments in healthcare. Remote medicine is emerging all over the world.

“Access to broadband affects many parts of Ireland, and it requires a national solution.”