EUROPE – The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has voted in favour of reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags in Europe.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have recommended the use of economic instruments such as taxes and levies, marketing restrictions or bans, to encourage EU states to reduce the consumption of most common and polluting plastic bags by 80% by 2019.
"MEPs have voted for EU legislation that would deliver a significant and swift reduction in single-use plastic bags,” said lead MEP Margrete Auken (Greens/EFA, DK), who coordinated the committee vote and whose report was approved by 44 votes to 10, with 6 abstentions.
“As front-running countries in the EU and beyond have demonstrated, dramatically reducing the consumption of these plastic bags is easily achievable with a coherent policy. Swiftly phasing-out these bags is a very low-hanging fruit on the list of solutions to the pervasive problem of plastic waste in the environment.
"MEPs also supported provisions to ensure mandatory pricing of plastic bags in the food sector, as well as a strong recommendation to do so in the non-food sector, too. Putting a price on single-use bags is a proven and highly effective policy tool for reducing their excessive consumption" she added.
50% reduction by 2017, 80% by 2019
The Environment Committee MEPs have targeted lightweight plastic bags with a thickness below 50 microns – currently used widely in the European Union – because they say such bags are less reusable than thicker models and become waste more quickly.
Member states now have to reduce their consumption of lightweight plastic bags with a thickness below 50 microns by at least 50% by 2017 and by 80% two years later, through the use of measures such as taxes, levies, marketing restrictions or bans, to ensure that shops do not provide for plastic bags free of charge, except for very light ones, used to wrap loose foods such as raw meat, fish and dairy products.
Plastic bags used specifically to wrap foods such as fruits, vegetables and confectionery have to be replaced by 2019 by carrier bags made of recycled paper or biodegradable and compostable bags.
At the same time, MEPs say requirements concerning compostable and biodegradable packaging should be amended. According to Auken’s report, member states with existing separate collection of biowaste are to be allowed to reduce the price of biodegradable and compostable lightweight carrier bags by up to 50%.
The full European Parliament will vote on the proposed revised directive at its 14-17 April plenary session in Strasbourg.
European Bioplastics welcomes vote
Industry association European Bioplastics has voiced its support of the vote outcome and the new provisions on biodegradable and compostable plastic carrier bags.
François de Bie, Chairman of European Bioplastics, commented, “We are very glad to see provisions that acknowledge the important contribution that biodegradable and compostable plastic bags can make to enhanced biowaste collection across the EU. Biodegradable bags that are EN13432 compliant can help Member States to reduce landfilling by diverting biowaste from landfill to organic recycling.
“We now call on the Council of the European Union to support the provisions taken up by the Parliament and recognise the value that biodegradable plastic bags offer to European society.”