EU votes to drastically reduce plastic bag use

MEPs hail outcome of the vote as 'historic breakthrough', with member states set to reduce plastic bag use by 80 per cent by 2025.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

30 Apr 2015

Parliament has approved new EU rules to reduce plastic bag use. On average, a person uses 176 plastic bags a year, but the new targets will require this amount to be brought down to 90 a year by 2019 and 40 by 2025. Member states will be able to decide for themselves how to reach these numbers, either by imposing a price on plastic bags or setting a limit on their annual consumption.

Parliament's rapporteur on the issue, Margrete Auken, called the result of the vote "a historic breakthrough in tackling the pervasive problem of plastic waste in our environment and waste reduction in general".

As to how to achieve the targets, the Greens/EFA MEP suggested that, "pricing is the obvious way to go, it has been proven to be the most effective measure for reducing the consumption of single use plastic bags, and is already foreseen in many jurisdictions".


She added that, "given plastic waste respects no borders, notably in waterways, there is a clear argument for Europe-wide regulation".

EPP group shadow rapporteur György Hölvényi said the decision "reflects a hard-earned compromise. As a result, the EU is getting rid of a bad habit and is taking an important step towards a cleaner Europe".

S&D group vice-chair Kathleen Van Brempt called for "a change of mind-set in society, so that consumers bring along their own reusable bags when doing their shopping".

Socialist MEP Matthias Groote pointed out that "plastic bags end up in our lakes, rivers and oceans, causing widespread pollution, while taking hundreds of years to decompose. Today, the amount of plastic particles in our oceans is greater than the amount of plankton. The impact on sea life is devastating. The pollutants also enter the food chain, therefore endangering human health".

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, ALDE group coordinator on parliament's environment, public health and food safety committee, said this was "great news for the European environment", and was pleased that MEPs had "tackled a serious environmental problem, that people care about, which was easy to solve and has clear European added value".

However, ECR group environment spokesperson Julie Girling accused MEPs of having "plucked ideas out of the air without any understanding of what the costs and implications could be, or knowing whether then can be delivered".

She added, "we cannot call for EU law to meet principles of better regulation one day, and then throw those principles out of the window the next".

Nevertheless she did concede that, "the objectives of this law are sound. We need to reduce plastic bag use, but we want clear rules that will work, not overly prescriptive burdens that even the commission fears could be unworkable."


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