Canadian Plastics

European Union seeks to reduce plastic bag usage

The European Commission has unveiled a proposal aimed at drastically reducing the use of plastic bags.

November 4, 2013   Canadian Plastics

The European Commission has unveiled a proposal aimed at drastically reducing the use of plastic bags.

The plan would give member states the freedom to choose the measures they find most appropriate, including charges, national reduction targets or a ban under certain conditions.

In a statement, Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said the plan was to target plastic bags because these were a major source of litter in the 28-member bloc.

“Every year, more than eight billion plastic bags end up as litter in Europe, causing enormous environmental damage,” Potocnik said. He added that he believed the European Union could reduce its use of plastic bags by up to 80 per cent in the next few years.

The plan is to target the particularly thin bags that are typically provided free of charge by supermarkets because, according to Potocnik, these are “less frequently re-used than thicker plastic carrier bags and more prone to littering.”

Currently, the average European uses around 200 thin plastic bags annually, the Reuters news agency says, but broken down on a national level, this figure varies widely between member states. Since Denmark introduced a tax on such bags, their use has dropped to just four per person annually. At the other end of the scale, people in Poland, Slovakia and Portugal each use more than 450 per year. German usage is said to lie somewhere in the middle, at around 70 thin plastic bags per person.

If approved by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, member states would have a year to put the proposal into national law and a further two years to comply.


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