Europeans use about 100 million plastic carrier bags every year. Some of these are dropped as litter, ending up in the environment, where long-standing plastics accumulate and harm wildlife. The European Parliament today voted on new EU legislation aimed at reducing the use of single-use plastic carrier bags.
According to Margrete Auken (Green MEP), the parliament’s rapporteur/draftsperson on the legislation, “MEPs have today voted to significantly strengthen draft EU rules aimed at reducing plastic bag use and waste, notably to include obligatory European reduction targets and a requirement that plastic bags come at a cost. As front-running countries have demonstrated, dramatically reducing the consumption of these disposal bags is easily achievable with coherent policy. Swiftly phasing-out these bags is a readily-implementable solution to the pervasive problem of plastic waste in the environment”.
MEPs have voted to include clear EU targets to reduce single-use plastic bags by 50% in 3 years and 80% in 5 years. As countries like Ireland have shown, with the right policy, these targets are easily achievable. Those member states which want to go further and ban single use bags could do so under the proposals voted today.
Biodegradable bags would also be included in the EU target. However, in those member states which have separate collection of bio-waste, like Italy or Germany, the price of biodegradable bags could be reduced by up to 50% so as to incentivise separate collection of bio-waste. MEPs also supported provisions aimed at ensuring mandatory pricing of plastic bags in the food sector, as well as a strong recommendation to do so in the non-food sector as well. Putting a price on single-use bags is a proven and highly effective policy tool for reducing their excessive consumption.
According to Novamont, Italian leading company in the development and production of materials and biochemicals through the integration of chemistry, the environment and agriculture, “in the current state of affairs, the directive voted in by the European Parliament recognises the positive results of the Italian regulation on plastic bags in terms of transforming the problem of organic waste into a development opportunity. With its law, Italy has in fact already brought the consumption of single-use carrier bags down from around 180,000 tons in 2010 to around 90,000 in 2013, a reduction of some 50%; it has also improved the quality and quantity of organic waste by creating a veritable model for separate waste collection, which works in the same way both in low population density areas and those of high density, as the case of Milan demonstrates”.