Europe – The European Parliament has largely welcomed stringent EU measures to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags, ENDS Europe has reported. Industry opposition to reduction targets and mandatory pricing for lightweight plastic bags was defeated on April 16 by 539 votes to 51, with 72 abstentions.
The European Parliament has agreed that use of these bags should be cut by 50% by 2017 and 80% by 2019. Most MEPs were also in favour of preferential treatment for biodegradable and compostable bags, as recommended by fellow MEP Margrete Auken from the Greens/EFA group. Her call to phase out carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) substances and endocrine disruptors was also met with enthusiasm. Additionally, amendments exempting the fast-food industry from the directive were rejected. Trade body PlasticsEurope and packaging association Europen were both ‘very alarmed’ by the outcome of the vote. The former fears the move could ‘weaken one of the success stories of the European Union: the Single Market’. According to PlasticsEurope’s executive director Karl Foerster, a ban on plastic bags is no solution to the problem of ‘irresponsible disposal’. He explains: ‘The Parliament’s plan leads to a situation in which some countries ban plastic bags, while others allow them. Such a patchwork of rules is against the idea of the existing legislation and detrimental to the free movement of goods in Europe.’ Environmental groups largely welcomed the move although Seas at Risk strongly criticised the support for biodegradable and compostable bags owing to their contribution to marine littering. For more information, visit: www.plasticseurope.org