“EU planning to reduce plastic bag mountain”, writes The Daily Herald.
European Union member states will be encouraged to tax or even ban thin single-use plastic bags handed out in shops under proposals to tackle the tonnes of plastic waste that enter the water system and kill wildlife. Some countries, such as Denmark, have already greatly reduced the use of such bags by introducing mandatory charges and the new initiative from the European Commission seeks to spur others in the 28-nation EU into action. But Green lawmakers said the proposals were too timid because they set no specific targets and left individual member states to decide how to reduce the use of the plastic bags.
“Plastic bags are a symbol of our throw-away society. They are made of material that lasts for hundreds of years yet we only use them for a few minutes,” Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik told reporters. “Some member states have already achieved great results in terms of reducing their use of plastic bags. If others followed suit, we could reduce today’s overall consumption in the European Union by as much as 80 percent.”
The proposals must be approved by member states and by the European Parliament to take effect. A Danish Green member of the European Parliament, Margrete Auken, said the proposals did not go far enough. “The failure to set out clear targets for reducing lightweight plastic bags will clearly undermine the prospect of ensuring a reduction across the EU,” she said in a statement.
In Denmark, where the thin single-use plastic bags are taxed, their use has dropped to an estimated 4 bags per person each year, the lowest in the EU, compared with 466 per person in Poland, Portugal and Slovakia. In total, an estimated 98.6 billion plastic bags, mostly of the thin kind that are rarely reused and escape most easily into the environment, were placed on the EU market in 2010, said the Commission, the EU’s executive body.
They have been found in the stomachs of endangered marine species such as turtles and porpoises. The Commission also estimates that the stomachs of 94 percent of all birds in the North Sea contain plastic. Plastic bags can last for hundreds of years, meaning they accumulate in the environment.