EU countries will need to reduce the use of the most common plastic bags by at least 80 per cent by 2019, under draft rules backed by MEPs.
The European Parliament has recommended that taxes and levies, marketing restrictions and bans should be considered by Member States to meet the target.
MEP Margrete Auken saw her report approved by 539 votes to 51 with 72 abstentions. She said: “MEPs have today voted to significantly strengthen draft EU rules aimed at reducing plastic bag use and waste, notably to include obligatory European reduction targets and a requirement that plastic bags come at a cost.
“As front-running countries have demonstrated, dramatically reducing the consumption of these disposable bags is easily achievable with coherent policy. Swiftly phasing out these bags is a readily implementable solution to the pervasive problem of plastic waste in the environment.”
MEPs have set reduction targets of 50 per cent by 2017 and 80 per cent by 2019 compared to 2010 levels on plastic bags thinner than 50 microns, which includes the vast majority of bags used in the EU.
Very light plastic bags used to wrap loose foods such as raw meat, fish and dairy products will be exempt in the 2017 target.
Plastic bags used to wrap foods such as fruit, vegetables and confectionary should be replaced by 2019 by carrier bags made of recycled paper or biodegradable and compostable bags with requirements for compostable and biodegradable packaging needing to be amended.
With European elections taking place in May, the European Parliament voted so that the work done during this mandate can be taken up by the new Parliament and used as a basis for further negotiations with EU Member States.