Members states of the European Union (EU) will have to reduce the amount of plastic bags consumed by 80% by 2019, according to a draft amendment to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive backed by the European Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI).
Under the draft amendment (first proposed in November 2013), which aims to reduce the amount of plastic bags littered, member states will be required to reduce consumption of “the most common and polluting plastic bags” by at least 50% by 2017 and by 80% by 2019.
The law will relate to lightweight plastic bags with a thickness below 50 microns, which reportedly represent the majority of plastic bags currently used in the EU.
MEPs recommend member states achieve this reduction in consumption through economic instruments such as taxes and levies, marketing restrictions or bans (such as that already in place in Wales).
The legislation will also require that any lightweight bags used to protect food (such as loose fruits, vegetables and confectionery) will need to be made of recycled paper or biodegradable and compostable material by 2019.
Further, it has been proposed that legislation for compostable packaging should be amended so as to “ensure a European standard for garden composting is developed” and the law regarding biodegradable packaging is changed so that only materials which are fully biodegraded are considered to be biodegradable.
The draft law is based on a report written by Green MEP Margrete Auken (who is also the rapporteur for the draft law), and was approved by 44 votes to 10 (with six abstentions).
Auken said: “MEPs have voted for EU legislation that would deliver a significant and swift reduction in single-use plastic bags. As front-running countries in the EU and beyond have demonstrated, dramatically reducing the consumption of these plastic bags is easily achievable with a coherent policy.
“MEPs also supported provisions to ensure mandatory pricing of plastic bags in the food sector, as well as a strong recommendation to do so in the non-food sector, too. Putting a price on single-use bags is a proven and highly effective policy tool for reducing their excessive consumption.”
The text will be put to a vote at the 14-17 April plenary session in Strasbourg.