In a move to phase out ‘single use’ plastic carrier bags and reduce the detrimental impact they are having on the environment, the European Commission last year urged both individuals and businesses from across the European Union to give “their views” on how to deal with the ever-rising levels of plastic waste.
The public consultation, launched by the European Commission on 18th May, ran until the end of August 2011. During this period, each of the 27 member states of the European Union were asked to offer their suggestions on how to deal with the billions of bags in circulation, how to improve carrier bag labeling so the consumer can make better choices, and how to enhance bag biodegradability.
While several member states have since introduced bans and tax charges on single use carrier bags, the European Commission reports “the average EU citizen consumes approximately 500 plastic carrier bags per year, and most of them are only used once, so effective EU action is needed”.
Italy became the first country in the EU to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags in 2011, and with the recently introduced carrier bag tax in Wales, it looks as though other members of the European Union are likely to support the Commission in their bid to fight pollution.
The web-based consultation also collected the public’s views on the EU Packaging Directive, after the EU Commission stated, “The Directive doesn’t allow for a clear distinction between biodegradable products that should biodegrade in natural conditions in the environment, and compostable products that only biodegrade in industrial composting facilities.”
An amended EU Packing Directive could see improvements in the biodegradability requirements of plastic carrier bags, and make biodegradable packaging more visible to consumers.
While the European Commission has decided against a complete ban on plastic carrier bags, it is pushing for a “minimum charge for single-use carrier bags” to be introduced across Europe, so as we wait to hear the fate of the humble carrier bag – we would love to hear your opinion!