EU member states are to be encouraged to tackle the issue of plastic bag consumption and the waste they cause in new proposals set out, which would mean states would be able to ban the use of plastic bags in its territory.
The European Commission has taken the stance of encouraging member states to take measures to reduce the use of lightweight plastic bags, in a bid to reduce the amount of waste cause by this stream.
In 2010 it was estimated that slightly fewer than 100bn plastic carrier bags were placed on the EU market. This amounts to every EU citizen using 198 plastic carrier bags per year, which represents more than one bag per day for each European household.
Some 90 percent of those 100bn bags were lightweight bags, according to the Commission.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “Some Member States have already achieved great results in terms of reducing their use of plastic bags. If others followed suit we could reduce today’s overall consumption in the European Union by as much as 80 percent”
Annual per capita consumption of thin plastic bags varies greatly between member states, ranging from an estimated four plastic bags consumed per citizen in Denmark and Finland, to an estimated 466 in Poland, Portugal and Slovakia.
The proposal has taken the form of an amendment to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, and as a part of those amendments member states will be free to ban plastic bags on their territory, provided that certain conditions are met. These conditions include; the ban can’t be discriminatory to a certain type of lightweight plastic bag over another, and it mustn’t be a disguised restriction on trade between member states.
This means member states have more freedom to introduce restrictive measures, but the freedom to define such measures is not unlimited. Any such measure has to be compatible with EU law.
If European Parliament and the Council approve the proposals member states will have 12 months for transposition, and two years to implement the Directive?
Estimates suggest that in 2010, over 8bn plastic carrier bags were littered in the EU. They escape waste management streams and accumulate in our environment, especially in the form of marine litter. Plastic bags found on UK beaches have reached an average density of one bag every 23 metres.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “We’re taking action to solve a very serious and highly visible environmental problem. Every year, more than 8bn plastic bags end up as litter in Europe, causing enormous environmental damage. Some Member States have already achieved great results in terms of reducing their use of plastic bags. If others followed suit we could reduce today’s overall consumption in the European Union by as much as 80 percent.”
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