The European Parliament has voted to accept new rules on plastic bags that will force Member States to clamp down on plastic bags.
Member States will be able to choose to either take measures to reduce annual consumption of plastic bags to 90 lightweight plastic 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.
Danish Green MEP Margrete Auken steered the legislation through the European Parliament. 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 grip with this.”
MEPs voted on the second reading of the rules after a deal was struck with the Council of Ministers in November last year.
The European Commission will also be 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 labelling and marking measures for an EU-wide recognition of the biodegradable and compostable plastic bags.
In 2010, every EU citizen used an estimated 198 plastic carriers bags, of which 90% would fall under these new rules on bags lighter than 50 microns.