EU Ministers block scheme to cut plastic bag waste

A group of European Union (EU) Member States - including the UK, Romania, Greece, Croatia and Poland - is blocking a European Parliament proposal to reduce plastic bag use by 80% by 2019, despite 92% of Europeans agreeing that measures should be taken to reduce single plastic bag use.

That’s according to environmental organisation the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), which argues that European Parliament proposals including rules to charge customers for plastic bags would mean savings and profits amounting to €650m per year between 2015 and 2020 for public authorities, manufacturers and retailers.

EEB policy officer on waste Piotr Barczak said: “This basically amounts to a failure to respect either the environment or public opinion. In spite of strong backing across political groups in the Parliament for the proposal and massive popular support for reductions, the UK and some other countries in the Council persist in showing a complete disregard for the awful environmental consequences of pollution from plastic bags.”

The final three-way negotiations between the European Parliament, Council of European Union and European Commission are due to commence on Monday 17 November, with the representatives from each member state meeting this Friday (14 November) ahead of those talks. If they do not produce an agreement, the proposal will have to be rethought and may be scrapped completely. 

UK policy

The recent introduction of a plastic bag tax in Ireland resulted in a 90% drop in consumption and approximately one billion fewer bags were consumed annually. Despite the success story, the EU Council of Ministers continues to argue that such decisions should be left up to national governments.

The UK has gained the support of other Member States to prevent a ban on oxo-degradable plastics, which is neither recyclable nor compostable and has almost no biodegradation results.

But, even if the proposals did go ahead, they are unlikely to have much impact on UK policy as the Government has already announced plans to introduce a 5p charge on single use carrier bags in England in 2015, following similar legislation that was successfully introduced in Wales and Northern Ireland in 2013. In October, Scotland became the third UK country to introduce a carrier bag levy.

–Carrier bag charge: In numbers–

Lois Vallely

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie