MEPs target to cut use of plastic bags in the EU


Members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee approved a report today for reducing the consumption of plastic bags.

The main objective of the amended directive on packaging and waste is to limit the negative impacts on the environment, in particular in terms of litter, to encourage waste prevention and to reduce significantly the number of single-use “lightweight” plastic bags which is defined as 50 microns or less in thickness.

Plastic bags pollute soil, water and kill thousands of marine wildlife (ecosystems). In 2010, more than 8 billion plastic bags ended up as litter in Europe. Every European citizen used, on average, 198 plastic bags, 90% of which were single-use lightweight bags. Annual per capita consumption of single-use plastic bags varies greatly between Member States, ranging from an estimated 4 plastic bags (in the best performing countries) consumed per citizen in Denmark or Finland, to an estimated 466 (in the worst) in Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia or Baltic states.

The key points of the report include:
• introducing a two-stage reduction target for plastic bags by 50% within three years after the entry into force of the Directive leading and 80% within five years i.e. around 2020 (the target is based on EU average per capita consumption and will therefore mean different efforts in different Member States),
• to achieve the target, Member States should ensure that at least food retailers charge for plastic bags handed out at the till, instead of providing them free of charge. The exact design of such charges is left up to Member States,
• plastic bags that have a function in ensuring food hygiene (such as bags used for fresh meat and fish) are exempted from these new measures

Next steps: The Plenary vote on this proposal is scheduled for April session. Negotiations with the Council in order to finalise the legislation will take place during the next parliamentary term.

[Source: ALDE Group and ]