Last week (17 April) Europe moved a step closer in implementing an 80 percent reduction in the use of lightweight plastic bags in Europe. In a statement responding to the news, Environment Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, said that plastic bags are a “symbol of our throw-away society and unsustainable lifestyles”.
“I am delighted that this is moving forward quickly and I look forward to engaging with the new Parliament after the elections to try to get a rapid adoption of this important initiative,” Potočnik said. “My congratulations go to the author of the Parliament’s report, Margarete Auken, who got strong support for her report.”
Under the new rules EU countries would have to reduce the use of the most common and most polluting plastic bags by at least 80 percent by 2019. MEPs recommend using taxes and levies, marketing restrictions or bans.
Potočnik continued: “The huge and growing consumption rates of plastic bags –100bn bags per year in the EU alone – demonstrates a reckless waste of resources; plastic bags are a symbol of our throw-away society and unsustainable lifestyles. We use them for a few minutes, but their legacy lasts for hundreds of years, often as harmful microscopic particles that are damaging the environment worldwide, especially the marine environment. In the North Sea, the stomachs of 94 percent of all birds contain plastic.
Potočnik – “The huge and growing consumption rates of plastic bags –100bn bags per year in the EU alone – demonstrates a reckless waste of resources; plastic bags are a symbol of our throw-away society and unsustainable lifestyles”
“Public opinion is strongly behind reducing use of lightweight plastic bags, but public behaviour change needs a nudge. This is the clear lesson from Member States, such as Ireland, which have shown simple measures can lead to big changes. That is why the Commission proposal calls on Member States to take implement measures to secure an 80 percent reduction in lightweight bags – no matter what kind of plastic they are made from, and it allows Member States to ban them, so long as they respect internal market rules. I am pleased that moves by some in the Parliament to reject this last possibility did not gain support.
“From the Parliament’s vote it is clear that the Commission and Parliament share the same objective, but we may still need more discussion on the measures best suited to achieve that objective. We will be analysing the amendments in the report very carefully.”
“Let’s Clean Up Europe”
Alongside the news on plastic bag reduction, Potočnik also commented on the “Let’s Clean up Europe” campaign.
“Let’s Clean up Europe” is an initiative that aims to encourage more such actions, to raise awareness about the scale of the litter and waste problems, and to encourage changes in behaviour.
The event is being coordinated by the European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR).
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “Civic clean up movements are growing across Europe and we want to make them fell part of a European event. We have put together a network of national contact points in 21 countries to let people know what is going on in their neighbourhood, and what they can do to help. It’s a hands-on initiative, so let’s get our boots and gloves on. We all want to live in clean neighbourhoods, so together Let’s Clean Up Europe.”