Editorial Feature

How Poland is Tackling Pollution (Plastic / Emissions)

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Much of Poland’s national pride stems from their reliance on “black gold,” which is what many Poles use to refer to coal. Despite the economic benefits that the Polish coal industry provides this nation, it is also the source of their widespread air pollution. As Poland begins to crack down on their air pollution, this nation has also incorporated ways in which they can reduce their plastic waste production as well.

Poland’s Reliance on Coal

The production of coal in Poland has a long history that dates back to as far as the Middle Ages, with its peak success arising in the 19th century. In fact, by the mid 19th century, coal production in Poland was recognized as the main driver of this nation’s economy with a yearly production rate of approximately 1.5 million tons. Despite the consistent growth that the Polish coal industry experienced from this point forward, a period of dysfunction during the 1970s caused the Polish coal and energy sector to undergo a radical transformation.

Between 1989 and 2015, the Polish government was primarily focused on increasing the productivity and profitability of their nation’s coal sector. As of 2017, Poland ranked as the third-largest hard coal-producing nation in the European Union after Russia and Kazakhstan, with a total yearly production rate of 55 million tons of coal. The dependence on Poland’s coal production stretches far beyond the country’s own needs; in fact, it is estimated that 80% of private homes within the European Union rely on Poland’s coal for their energy needs.

Coal: The Source of Poland’s Smog

The combustion of coal throughout Poland, as well as any other nation that relies on this specific energy sector, is a major source of high carbon emission that subsequently contributes to global warming, acid rain production, and climate change. To no surprise, Poland is considered to be one of the most polluted nations in the European Union. As a result of these high pollution rates, it is estimated that up to 48,000 Polish citizens will die each year from illnesses that are attributed to this dangerously poor air quality.

Poland’s Plan to Combat Smog      

On October 14, 2018, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki launched “Stop Smog,” which is the government’s $100 billion zloty, which is equivalent to 25 billion euros, an initiative to fight against the country’s harmful air pollution. The primary goals of Stop Smog are to provide 90-100% of the cost for insulating buildings, as well as replace any old furnaces in said buildings that traditionally relied on coal power. Furthermore, Stop Smog plans to improve the energy efficiency lower-income family homes by providing thermal insulation for these individuals.

In addition to the aforementioned actions that Poland has taken to reduce their coal dependency, local governments have also increased their use of drones to monitor emission levels being released from homes and buildings in the surrounding areas. These local governments have also provided education services to residents on the importance of reducing emission rates and how these individuals can begin to transition to cleaner energy sources.

Poland’s Crackdown on Plastic

To follow the European trend on tackling plastic pollution, Poland’s Ministry of Finance in Warsaw has announced a recycling charge to be imposed on all plastic bags with a thickness within the range of 15 to 50 microns. Although the Ministry was hopeful that this initiative would cause a drastic reduction in lightweight plastic bag distribution, many shops opted to provide customers with slightly thicker bags for no charge.

To combat this issue, the Polish Ministry decided to extend the charge of 20 groszy net to all plastic bags thicker than 15 microns, thereby allowing for thinner bags typically used for groceries or bread to remain free of charge. To date, the average Polish citizen utilizes about 300 bags each year, which is 500 less than the average per Pole from 10 years ago.

Sources and Further Reading

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Benedette Cuffari

Written by

Benedette Cuffari

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Toxicology with two minors in Spanish and Chemistry in 2016, Benedette continued her studies to complete her Master of Science in Toxicology in May of 2018. During graduate school, Benedette investigated the dermatotoxicity of mechlorethamine and bendamustine, which are two nitrogen mustard alkylating agents that are currently used in anticancer therapy.

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