Europe lets states choose how to cut bag use

David Eldridge
EUROPEAN PLASTICS NEWS

Published: November 4, 2013 2:31 pm ET
Updated: November 4, 2013 2:42 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Public Policy, Sustainability, Government & Legislation, Grocery bags, Packaging

The European Commission has announced its proposal for reducing the use of lightweight plastic carrier bags in the Europe Union, which gives EU member states the freedom to choose the measures they find most appropriate, including charges, national reduction targets or a ban under certain conditions.

In a statement issued today, environment commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "We're taking action to solve a very serious and highly visible environmental problem. Every year, more than 8 billion plastic bags end up as litter in Europe, causing enormous environmental damage. 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."

By adopting the proposal, the Commission said it aims "to limit negative impacts on the environment, in particular in terms of littering, to encourage waste prevention and a more efficient use of resources, while limiting negative socio-economic impacts." It particularly noted the danger that marine littering poses to eco-systems and animals such as fish and birds.

The Commission estimates that in 2010, 98.6 billion plastic carrier bags were used in the EU market. The majority of these were lightweight bags, which are less frequently re-used than thicker ones, it said. It estimates that 8 billion bags are littered in the EU each year.

The consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags varies greatly between EU countries, with annual use per capita ranging between an estimated four bags in Denmark and Finland and 466 bags in Poland, Portugal and Slovakia.

These large differences make it difficult to implement an EU-wide reduction target, and so each member state is being allowed to set its own target.

"At a later stage the establishment of an EU-wide reduction target could however be considered," said the Commission.

It noted the success of some economic instruments, such as Ireland's levy and Denmark's tax, in cutting bag use. "However, for reasons of subsidiarity and because the scale of the problem varies across member states the proposal foresees that member states design themselves the measures they deem most effective, taking into account existing best practices," said the Commission.

The proposal would be implemented by amending the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. The amendments would require member states to adopt measures to reduce the consumption of plastic carrier bags with a thickness below 50 microns. These measures may include the use of economic instruments, such as charges, national reduction targets, and marketing restrictions (subject to the internal market rules of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU).

In an executive summary of the impact assessment of the proposal, the Commission said: "The main environmental benefits are linked to the decline in the amount of waste and the number of bags littered, which translates into lower litter clean-up expenses and expenses incurred in formal waste management (collection, recycling and disposal). These costs are expected to be reduced considerably as consumption of single-use plastic bags diminishes. Lower consumption of single-use plastic bags would also result in more efficient resource use and lower greenhouse gas emissions."

It also assessed economic and social impacts. The Commission said that in the EU, 70 percent of single-use carrier bags are imported.

"The net impacts on producers are expected to be positive," it said. It bases this view on an expected switch to heavier reusable plastic carrier bags, which are mainly produced in the EU.

The net impacts on retailers are also expected to be positive, as initial costs could be offset by the increased sale of reusable alternatives.

The Commission said its assessment shows a "slightly negative" impact on employment levels from its proposal.

The European Parliament and European Council need to approve the proposal for it to take force. Following that, member states will have 12 months to adopt the directive and two years to implement it.


Comments

Europe lets states choose how to cut bag use

David Eldridge
EUROPEAN PLASTICS NEWS

Published: November 4, 2013 2:31 pm ET
Updated: November 4, 2013 2:42 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Europe recycled equivalent of 65 billion PET bottles in 2013

September 2, 2014 10:38 am ET

New figures from Petcore Europe said the equivalent of around 65 billion bottles — 1.64 million metric tons — was recycled in the region...    More

Image

EcoCortec develops marine degradeable film to help reduce debris

September 2, 2014 9:55 am ET

Croatian specialist packaging producer EcoCortec has developed marine biodegradable film products designed to combat the scourge of plastics...    More

Image

California lawmakers give final approval to plastic bag ban

August 30, 2014 6:00 am ET

Under the measure, single-use plastic bags will be barred from California retailers, including grocery stores, convenience stores and drug stores, as ...    More

Image

Poor plastic coating prompts cable recall

August 29, 2014 2:10 pm ET

Australia's competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has ordered a major recall of 2,485 miles of electrical ...    More

Image

EPA fines RI polymer company

August 29, 2014 1:20 pm ET

A Rhode Island polymer manufacturer has reached a $60,000 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for violating federal clean a...    More

Market Reports

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Pipe, Profile & Tubing Extrusion in North America 2014

U.S. demand for extruded plastics is expected to grow by 3 percent in 2014, with PVC remaining the largest segment.

Plastic pipe will post the strongest gains through 2018, continuing to take market share from competing materials in a range of markets.

Our latest market report provides in-depth analysis of current trends and their financial impact on the pipe, profile and tubing extrusion industry in North America.

Learn more

2014 Injection Molding Industry Report

GROWTH, OPPORTUNITY IN SIGHT FOR INJECTION MOLDERS IN 2014

In the wake of the economic turbulence earlier in this decade, molders today find themselves in much better shape. Molders are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in people, equipment and seeking inroads into new markets on a global scale.

Growth in the injection molding industry is going to be driven by low financing costs and a continued move to reshore some business.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events