According to a report by Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) and Surfrider Foundation Europe (SFE), EU countries have fallen behind in phasing out single-use plastic bags and preventing plastic pollution.
The report entitled Still Finding Excuses? Time for Europe to act against plastic bag pollution¸ explores the implementation of the EU law on plastic bag reduction adopted in 2015.
It found that more than 18 months after the deadline for transposition the measures adopted remain insufficient in many Member States.
SFE European affairs officer Justine Maillot said: “In too many EU countries the measures adopted so far are at best half-hearted. There is no excuse for further delay. Governments must raise their level of ambition to match the urgency of the plastic pollution crisis and the concerns of EU citizen.”
The two organisations said that rather than banning the bags, most countries have opted for voluntary agreements with retailers or for a charge on lightweight carrier plastic bags, which will only come into law next year for some countries.
Although the report agrees that a tax can have an impact on consumer behaviour, it also highlights how eliminating single-use plastic bags will require a restriction on the supply side, and that the charge is often too low.
ZWE product policy campaigner Ariadna Rodrigo, said: “The lack of ambition from many governments is at odds with the commitments to tackle plastic pollution worldwide, and with the ‘race to the top’ called for by the European Commission.”
The report also illustrates concerns regarding the exemption from any tax or restriction for lightweight plastic bags, bio-based and biodegradable bags.
ZWE and SFE said that this is a big contradiction in the fight against plastic bag pollution and emphasised that existing reusable alternatives such as tote bags or baskets need to be prioritised.