The European Parliament voted yesterday (16 April) in favour of curbing the use of thin plastic bags in the EU by at least 80% by 2019.
The draft laws call for EU countries to first reduce their consumption of the bags by 50% by 2017, compared to 2010 figures.
The new law will apply to lightweight plastic bags that are thinner than 50 microns, which are deemed the most polluting form of bag. They are the type of bag most prone to littering and can easily break apart, causing damage to the environment and ocean wildlife, in particular.
The stomachs of 94% of all birds in the North Sea area contain plastic, according to European Commission statistics.
EU lawmakers recommended using taxes and levies, marketing restrictions and bans to curb their use, preventing shops from giving bags out for free. The draft rules exclude very light bags, used to wrap loose foods, such as raw meat, fish and dairy products. Member states can choose their own measures, as long as the contribute towards the aim of reducing carrier bag consumption.
“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,” said Margrete Auken, a Danish Green MEP, who is charged with steering the legislation through the Parliament.
A strong majority of MEPs, 539, voted in favour of her report, which is based on the European Commission’s proposal released in November. 51 MEPs voted against and there were 72 abstentions.
Janez Poto?nik, the European commissioner for the environment directorate, which drafted the original proposals, said the aim of the draft laws was to tackle “an emblematic issue of our consumer society”. The directorate is working on separate measures to tackle the environmental problems associated with other forms of plastic.