The European Commission has adopted a proposal that requires Member States to reduce their use of lightweight plastic carrier bags.
Member States can choose the measures they find most appropriate, including charges, national reduction targets or a ban under certain conditions.
The Commission said the overall aim of the proposal is to “promote waste prevention and reduce littering” with the properties that make plastic bags commercially successful – low weight and resistance to degradation –also contributing to their proliferation in the environment.
In 2010 it was estimated that slightly fewer than 100 billion plastic carrier bags were placed on the EU market, with some 90 percent of those 100 billion being lightweight bags, according to the Commission.
Technically, the Commission’s proposal to amend Article 4 of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive requires member states to adopt measures to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags with a thickness below 50 microns, which it says are “less frequently reused than thicker ones,” and therefore have a greater risk of ending up as litter.
“Some Member States have already achieved great results in terms of reducing their use of plastic bags. If others followed suit we could reduce today's overall consumption in the European Union by as much as 80 percent," said Environment Commissioner, Janez Potočnik.
Once the European Parliament and the Council approve the proposal, it will enter into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.
From the date of entry into force, Member States will have 12 months for transposition, and two years to implement the Directive.