An Italian ski resort is endeavoring to become the first in Europe to ban plastic after discovering that a nearby glacier contained a significant amount of microplastics.
The use of plastic bottles, bags, cutlery, plates, straws, cups and condiment sachets was banned when the slopes opened early this month at Pejo 3000, a small resort in Val di Sole, Trentino, and other measures are to be enacted over the season.
The facility, which attracted 137,000 skiers last winter, has three mountain huts that no longer stock plastic items.
“This is the first part of a project intended to make the ski area of Pejo 3000 the most sustainable in the Alps,” Val di Sole Tourism Board general manager Fabio Sacco said.
The move was prompted by a study in April by scientists at the University of Milan and the University of Milan-Bicocca, which revealed that the surface of Forni Glacier, one of the largest valley glaciers in the Italian Alps, contained 131 million to 162 million plastic particles, including fibers and polyethylene.
Scientists believe that the particles on the glacier, which forms part of Stelvio National Park, originated from visitors’ clothing and equipment, and might have been transported there by wind currents.
“If plastic products reach the mountains, they will remain there for a long period of time, even decades, and they will then transform into environmental and health damage, and enter into the food chain,” Muse Natural Sciences Museum glaciologist Christian Casarotto said. “Projects that aim to limit the use of plastic products are urgently needed. They should be applied throughout the Alps.”
After the initial step, the Pejo 3000 resort is to work toward eliminating products that produce a considerable amount of microplastics. Next month, it is to remove plastic covers from its one-day ski passes. Passes for longer periods are laminated and rechargeable.
The resort, which has 19km of runs and seven ski lifts, also plans to improve waste collection, recycling and energy use.
“We are thinking about the environment, the impact on future generations, but also the competitiveness of our territory,” Sacco said. “Sustainability is an asset that we must develop.”