Plastic bags: Europe is closing the tap

Plastic is ending up in our rivers. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

The European Parliament and Council, decided, despite the wish from the EC, to regulate plastic bag waste in all European member states. The main goal is to cut the use of thin plastic bags by 50% by 2017 (compared to 2010), and at least by 80% by 2019. The new law will apply to lightweight plastic bags that are thinner than 50 microns. This type of bag can easily break apart and cause damage to the (water) environment.

Frans Timmermans, Deputy of the Commission of President Jean-Claude Juncker, said that the Parliament proposal on how to limit plastic bag consumption in the EU has not developed entirely in line with what the Commission now sees as better regulation. "But this is what the member states and Parliament want, and at the end of the day what we want to achieve is fewer plastic bags in our environment. The proposal, as it has been mandated, will indeed lead to that," Timmermans said. He added: "If there later on will be problems with the implementation, then it's something that the member states will have brought on to themselves."


Green MEP Margrete Auken, who was the Parliament's rapporteur on the matter, said in a statement that she was thankful that the Commission decided not to obstruct the finalising of the legislation. "Given plastic waste respects no borders, it is common sense to have a European approach to tackling the problem. Charging for plastic bags has proved to be overwhelmingly effective at reducing plastic bag use and this is obviously the way to go for member states," Auken said.

An estimated 8 billion plastic bags end up as litter in Europe every year. In Denmark and Finland, the yearly average consumption of thin plastic bags is only four per person, compared to 466 in Poland, Portugal and Slovakia.