European Union countries will be required to reduce the use of plastic bags under new rules approved by the European Parliament April 28.
Member states will be able to choose either to take measures to reduce annual average consumption of non-biodegradable plastic bags to 90 lightweight bags per citizen by the end of 2019 — and 40 by the end of 2025 — or ensure that by the end of 2018, no more light plastic bags are handed over free of charge to shoppers.
In 2010 every EU citizen used an estimated 198 plastic carrier bags, some 90 percent of which were lightweight.
Lightweight plastic bags are those thinner than 50 microns, and make up the vast majority of plastic carrier bags used in the EU.
Denmark's European Parliament member Margrete Auken steered the legislation through Parliament and said it was a major step for the environment.
She said: “This legislation will create a genuine win-win situation. "We're talking about an immense environmental problem. Billions of plastic bags end up directly in nature as untreated waste. It damages nature, harms fish, birds, and we have to get to grips with this.”
Furthermore, the European Commission is required to assess the impact on the environment of oxo-degradable plastic materials, which fragment into small particles, and propose suitable measures. By 2017, the European Commission will have to propose labeling and marking measures for an EU-wide recognition of biodegradable and compostable plastic bags.