Member states of the European Union will need to introduce measures to reduce plastic bag use.
The European Commission will amend the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive to allow states the choice to ban plastic bags if they wish, or introduce charges or national reduction targets.
Member states will be required to adopt measures to reduce the consumption of plastic carrier bags with a thickness below 50 microns as these are less frequently reused than thicker ones.
Bans of plastic bags will be allowed as long as it doesn’t discriminate between one type of lightweight plastic bag over another, and it mustn’t be a disguised restriction on trade between Member States.
In a press conference, European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said that biodegradable plastic bags must not be discriminated against compared to traditional oil-based plastic bags. This means that the UK’s plan to allow biodegradable bags an exemption would not be allowed under the proposals.
He added: “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 per cent.”
Although the European Commission hasn’t set a target for reduction, it hopes to see a reduction of around 80 per cent. However, the Commissioner said that if progress is not made, the European Union will look to introduce stricter measures on member states in future.
Once the measure passes European legislation procedures, then member states will have two years to implement the measures.