On November 4, 2013, the European Commission approved a proposal that requires the Member States to reduce the use of lightweight plastic carrier bags by its citizens. These bags are commonly used by consumers to carry items they purchase from stores. The new amendments to Council Directive 94/62/EC, also known as the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, have two premises. First, it requires the Member States to reduce the use of lightweight plastic bags with a thickness below 50 microns. The most obvious example is lightweight plastic bags used at grocery stores. The EU aims to eliminate the consumption of lightweight plastic bags that are not frequently reused. Secondly, the directive gives the Member States different ways to implement the requirement. Member States may use economic instruments such as taxes and levies. Member States may also use national reduction targets and marketing restrictions. Since this is a directive, Member States may choose how they want to transpose the amendments into their national law. Member States may also issue a flat out ban.
The EU Environmental Commissioner stated: “We’re taking action to solve a very serious and highly visible environmental problem. Every year, more than 8 billion plastic bags end up as litter in Europe, causing enormous environmental damage. ” Last year, it is estimated that 100 billion plastic carrier bags were placed in the EU Market. It is estimated that each EU citizen uses almost 200 plastic bags a year. The consumption of plastic bags used in each Member State varies greatly with Denmark and Finland achieving four plastic bags per person and Poland, Portugal, and Slovakia achieving 466 plastic bags per person. The objective of the amendments to the directive is to reduce plastic bag usage in the EU by eighty percent.
One of the main goals of the amendments is to alleviate environmental issues such as marine litter. The accumulation of litter in the world’s oceans and on the world’s coasts is a dangerous growing threat to the world’s ecosystems. It takes close to 45o years for plastic to dissolve. This mean litter attributable to humans like plastic accumlates in the ecosystems with no where to go. Many animals are killed by getting tangled in the plastic or ingesting it. Plastic has been found in the stomachs of endangered species of turtles and 94 percent of the birds in the North Sea.