It's time to get rid of non-reusable plastic bags, says S&D MEP Judith Merkies

non-reusable plastic bags

The environment committee in the European Parliament gave its solid backing last night to a directive aimed at reducing the use of light weight plastic carrier bags.

It is estimated that over 8 billion plastic carrier bags are littered throughout the EU every year. Collection schemes just cannot cope with the over-supply of free, single-use plastic carrier bags, and all too often they end up tangled up in our woods or floating in our seas. It has become a major global challenge.

S&D spokesperson on the issue, MEP Judith Merkies, said:

"The environment committee backed two binding measures: a reduction target of 80% for plastic bags and a mandatory charge for their use in shops selling food. Both measures have proved to be effective and attainable. 

"Member states have five years to meet the 80% reduction target, but this can be done in less time. We have seen this happen in countries where measures have been put in place. There was a sharp decline in the use of bags within a matter of months.

"Today we find light weight carrier bags everywhere, and especially where they don´t belong - caught up in trees or discarded along beaches. Plastic carrier bag litter is a burden on the environment, not to mention the fishing industry and tourism.

"For years the Parliament has been working tirelessly on the problem of pollution. Addressing the over-supply of single-use plastic bags really is low-hanging fruit. I am pleased to see that the environment committee supports a mandatory reduction target of 80% in five years, and I hope that the plenary will also support this proposal.

"8 out of 10 European citizens want the EU to do something about the overuse of carrier bags, according to a public consultation. The widely divergent trends between member states – with some countries using 500 bags per person per year, and others a mere four – show that it's time for a common approach. And more importantly, it's time for a change of mindset among consumers - from taking a free bag from the shop to taking a reusable bag to the shop".