• 16-APR-2014

  • SOURCE: S&D Group at European Parliament

MEPs Stand Up Against the Overuse of Plastic Bags

Every five minutes, up to one million new plastic carrier bags are used in the European Union, and a large proportion are then thrown straight in the bin. Over eight billion plastic carrier bags are thrown away across the EU every year.

In order to stop this unsustainable consumption, the European Parliament today passed a directive aimed at reducing the use of lightweight plastic carrier bags, which often end up tangled up in our trees or floating in our seas.

Socialist & Democrat spokesperson on the issue, MEP Judith Merkies, said:

"Member states must reduce their plastic-bag consumption by 80% in the next five years. And a mandatory charge for plastic bags will be introduced in shops selling food.

"These measures were long overdue and they have already proved to be very effective where they have been applied.

"Today we find lightweight carrier bags everywhere, 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 for the fishing industry and tourism.

"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."

Judith Merkies is also glad that the fast-food industry's attempt to get an exemption for takeaway shops did not get through:

"I am also relieved that the misguided amendments that asked for an exemption for the fast food sector were rejected. They were based on the wrong assumptions: no one is preventing the fast-food sector from distributing lightweight carrier bags – they just have to be subject to a charge like any other shop selling food. On top of that, it would have been a mistake to grant this exemption, as fast-food restaurants produce large amounts of packaging waste. To do so would send the wrong signal to the public.

Available content includes an edited package.