EU considers an end to the plastic bag

The EU wants to get rid of plastic bags. The bloc’s executive is considering a range of options – including an outright ban – in an effort to cut down on the amount of destructive plastic ending up in the biosphere.

The European Union’s environment chief is determined to slash the bloc’s use of plastic bags, and an outright ban is on the table.

„We are considering all possibilities including a ban in the European Union,“ said Janez Potocnik last Wednesday at the launch of a public consultation to test how Europeans feel about the problem.

According to the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, each person in Europe uses an average of 500 plastic bags every year, and mostly only once.

With many bags ending up in the ocean, the damage to the environment is huge.

In Mediterranean countries plastic bags are a common sight on beaches, in parks or strewn in city streets.

They are often thrown away, without a thought, to be carried where the elements take them, and much of the time, this is out to sea.

Giant layers of plastic garbage and vast numbers of small plastic particles litter our oceans. According to Potocnik’s office, about 250 billion pieces of plastic – weighing roughly 500 tons – are floating in the Mediterranean Sea.

It could take centuries for all the particles to dissolve. „We are very concerned about these small plastic particles,“ said Heribert Wefers, who is a pollution control expert for BUND, the German franchise of the environmental organization, Friends of the Earth.

„There are more plastic particles than plankton in some parts of the ocean. Fish end up eating this. They have stomachs more full of plastic than plankton and can eventually starve to death with a full stomach,“ Wefers said.

Threat to birds

Sea birds are also threatened by plastic debris. They consume plastic particles when they eat fish and accumulate plastic in their stomachs. They also get caught in bags and suffocate.

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Different problems in different countries

Yet German environmental officials are skeptical about whether a ban of plastic bags throughout the European Union would make sense, because they are used very differently.

For example, in Germany the average person uses 65 plastic bags per year, which is way below the EU average

Also the German recycling system is very efficient. Much plastic packaging is collected in special garbage containers and mostly recycled into new plastic bags or other synthetic material.

Nevertheless things can be improved in Germany – even without a ban. Heribert Wefers has several ideas. „We have to put an end to this throwaway attitude. We could tax plastic bags, even the bio-degradable ones as well as paper bags,“ he said.

Germany’s Federal Environment Agency says getting more longevity out of materials is always useful, and warns that alternatives to plastic aren’t always so environmentally friendly.

„Paper bags don’t make sense, as they contain chemicals to stabilize the paper, so it is not an alternative. The alternative is burlap and cotton,“ said agency spokesperson, Stephan Gabriel Haufe.

Source and more: DW-World.de 24.05.11


The Commission is also seeking the public’s views on how to boost biodegradability of packaging, with an upcoming review of the EU Packaging Directive. The review will also look at clearer labelling for biodegradable bags in order to help consumers make better choices.

„Advertising a packaging product as biodegradable when in fact it will not biodegrade in natural conditions can be misleading, and contributes to the proliferation of litter,“ the EU executive said.

The Commission’s public consultation will close at the end of August.

Source: http://www.euractiv.com/de/node/504939


Title

Consultation on options to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags and options to improve the requirements of biodegradability in the Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste and the visibility of biodegradable packaging products to consumers

Policy field(s)
Environment, packaging and packaging waste

Target group(s)
Citizens and stakeholders with interest/competence in the management of plastic carrier bags and biodegradability of packaging products.

Period of consultation

From 17.05.2011 to 9.08.2011

Objective of the consultation
The objective of the consultation is to gather views and additional information on the environmental, social and economic impacts that might result from measures aiming to reduce use of plastic carrier bags as well as measures to improve the requirements of biodegradability in the Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste and the visibility of biodegradable packaging products to consumers.

How to submit your contribution
We welcome contributions from citizens, organisations and public authorities.

* If you are answering this consultation as a citizen, please click here to submit your contribution.
* If you are answering this consultation on behalf of an organisation, please click here to submit your contribution.
* If you are answering this consultation on behalf of a public authority, please click here to submit your contribution.

Received contributions will be published on the Internet. It is important to read the specific privacy statement attached to this consultation for information on how your personal data and contribution will be dealt with. …

Source with links :
http://ec.europa.eu/environment/consultations/plasticbags_en.htm

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