On 21 November, representatives of the European Parliament, of the Council and of the Commission reached an informal agreement on the new directive aimed at reducing the usage of lightweight plastic bags. Light plastic bags – that is thinner than 50 microns, represent some 90% of all plastic bags used in the EU. These are not strong enough to be comfortably reusable, but are strong enough to do damage to the environment, mainly the world seas. Some Commission statistics show that 94% of North Sea birds have bits of such bags in their stomachs. Mainly environmental groups therefore consider these a big problem. In 2010, an average European used 198 plastic bags per year. Even more shockingly, while a Finn used only 4, a Pole or a Slovak used as many as 466! The MEPs together with the Member States, that is both co-legislators of the EU, agreed that this situation needs to be tackled. Once the directive is formally adopted, EU Member States will have to either make sure that the average usage of thin plastic bags is max. 90 in 2019 and max. 40 in 2025, or to forbid distribution of thin plastic bags to shoppers free of charge by 2018.
Since the directive, as agreed upon by the co-legislators, differs substantively from the original Commission proposal, the EC showed some uneasiness about the negotiations. However, First Vice-President of the Commission Frans Timmermans, responsible for this piece of legislation, finally agreed to the text, too. Recently, he and his boss, President Juncker, expressed themselves that plastic bags regulation is not what they regard as in line with the better regulation principle of the new Commission.
31st January 2018
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