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Plastic Bags: EP approves reduction of 80% in use


16 Apr 2014


Climate & Environment

At its last plenary session of this parliamentary term, the European Parliament today adopted a new piece of legislation aimed at reducing the use of plastic bags. The EPP Group MEP responsible for this Directive, Radvilė Morkūnaitė Mikulėnienė, welcomed the ambitious targets which will oblige Member States to reduce their use of light plastic bags, first by half, and then up to 80% as compared to the average EU consumption in 2010 within at least 5 years.

The use of plastic carrier bags, used by consumers to carry food products, should be gradually minimised. The Directive requires Member States to come up with ideas on how to solve this issue. One way could be to apply levies on the bags.  Radvilė Morkūnaitė Mikulėnienė is convinced that financial measures are the most effective means: “In countries such as Ireland, for example, that introduced the compulsory 'pay-as-you-throw' tax to tackle plastic waste, the situation has notably improved”, noted the MEP.

“However, the EPP Group’s main aim was a reduction, not a complete ban, of plastic bags in general”, she continued.

Plastics can stay in the environment for hundreds of years and plastic waste is widespread and accumulating. Plastics constitute a large part of marine debris, especially the single-use items: packaging, bags, bottles. Even those plastics which are degradable do not entirely disappear in to nature. After a certain time, they turn into microscopic particles, microplastics, which are harmful to the environment and especially to marine ecosystems.

In the EU every year, more than 8 billion plastic bags end up as litter. The economic and environmental costs will be considerable if the problem of plastic bags is not tackled in the short term. In this context, it must however be taken into account that the numbers of used bags vary substantially between the Member States.

In Denmark, for example, an average person uses 4 bags, in Poland, Slovakia, and Portugal this number is hundreds of times greater - 466. Lithuania is also attributed to those countries where people use a lot of plastic bags: they use 230 bags on average a year. The EU should therefore establish a feasible mandatory standard but leave it up to Member States how to fulfil it.

Note to Editors
The EPP Group is by far the largest political group in the European Parliament with 274 Members from 27 Member States.
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