European Member states have voted in favour of revised legislation to to reduce consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags to more “responsible levels”.
The deal will see EU member states opt for mandatory pricing of bags by 2019, or compulsory targets to reduce the number of plastic bags used annually per person from 191 now to 90 by 2019 and further to 40 in 2025.
This has been met with concerns from two of the industry’s biggest plastics trade associations, who have expressed fears over further bans that could hinder EU trade and lead to job losses.
“The possibility to ban plastics bags goes against the general principle of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. It is concerning as it opens the door for Members States to ban not only plastics bags but other types of packaging as well,” explained said Karl-H. Foerster, Executive Director of PlasticsEurope.
“Such an inconsistent political framework that would allow Member States to introduce different regulations on packaging would hinder investments and innovation and would create barriers to trade in packaged goods in Europe.”
PlasticsEurope said the European plastics industry does, however, support the imposition of a fee or tax on all carrier bags, irrespective of the material, as it helps to raise consumers’ awareness and effectively prevents littering.
“A mandatory charge is the best option as it has been proved to be an effective tool to reduce the over-consumption of lightweight plastic bags,” said Mr Foerster. “We should understand that plastics are too valuable to be thrown away. Charging for bags can have a positive effect on raising consumers’ awareness of the economic value of the resources that have been used to produce the bag” he expressed.
Trade association for Europe’s plastic converters, EuPC, said it welcomed the general aim of the European Commission’s proposal on plastic carrier bags, however, it believes that the compromise text reached between the European Parliament and the Council is “very problematic” from an internal market perspective and will cause “serious job losses” in many EU Member States.
Speaking on the vote, EuPC Managing Director, Alexandre Dangis, said: “We [the plastics converting industry] are disappointed that the EU institutions were not able to manage this piece of legislation in a better way.
“It is clear that if this text becomes final legislation, we will be set back 20 years in regards to EU internal market rules for packaging, and policy makers will not have solved problems surrounding over consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags in certain Member States. This is not good for industry and it is not good for the environment. The EU institutions should work with industry and not against us.”
EuPC would also advocate, as an alternative, mandatory charging practices for carrier bags by all food retailers in Europe, together with voluntary industry initiatives. This, it says, would lead to “far more” environmental benefits without damaging economic growth.