Yes to cutting plastic bag use. No to bad legislation

28-Apr-2015 @ 1:0

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EU rules aimed at cutting down on plastic bag use – adopted by the European Parliament today – seek to achieve the right aims, but fail to put in place legislation that is clear, enforceable and workable, according to Environment Spokesman Julie Girling.

With the average person using 198 plastic carrier bags every year, Mrs Girling supports measures that will discourage the single use of thin plastic bags. She supports efforts that would require all EU countries to adopt appropriate measures to reduce their consumption, including the use of economic instruments such as charges or national reduction targets and marketing restrictions.

However, whilst being an improvement on previous drafts of the legislation, the law adopted by MEPs today has led to concerns being expressed by the European Commission that some elements cannot be implemented, or fall outside of the scope of the legislation.

Mrs Girling said:

“We want action to cut down on plastic bag use, but we also need laws that we know will work. Instead, MEPs have plucked ideas out of the air without any understanding of what the costs and implications could be, or knowing whether they can be delivered.

“We cannot call for EU law to meet principles of better regulation one day, and then throw those principles out of the window the next.

“The objectives of this law are sound. We need to reduce plastic bag use, but we want clear rules that will work, not overly prescriptive burdens that even the European Commission fears could be unworkable.”


Notes The UK government has already introduced a 5p charge on single-use plastic carrier bags in England from 5 October 2015. A similar 5p charge on single-use bags is already in operation in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Amongst the concerns expressed by the European Commission were:

- the adoption of a label for biodegradable and home-compostable bags without the impacts thereof being assessed;
- additional administrative burden for the Member States and economic operators, including new reporting obligations and labelling requirements.
- provisions which could better be addressed in the context of the follow-up to the Commission Green Paper on plastic waste, such as the report on the use of “oxo-degradable” plastic bags;
- the possibility to vary the measures taken towards plastic bags based on their environmental impact or other properties could be problematic as regards the principles of non discrimination and proportionality and those of the Single Market;
- the possibility for setting national consumption objectives, at a level pre-determined by the Directive, in the absence of relevant statistical data for all Member States;
- too short deadlines for development and adoption in implementing acts of a methodology for reporting on consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags and of labels for biodegradable plastic carrier bags.

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