Tag Archive: Environmental law


The European Union Aims to Banish Plastic Bags

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.

 

 

 

France and the Ban on Mercedes’ Use of (Il)legal Hydroflurocarbons

In response to the Kyoto Protocol, EU member states have begun an initiative to reduce the amount of hydrofluorocarbons emitted by the air-conditioning systems in automobiles, so that they can be in compliance with the necessary reduction in greenhouse gases required by the Protocol.  The EU has created Directive 2006/40/EC to ensure the uniformity of the effort and to avoid impeding the free movement of commerce between member countries.

Last week France’s administrative court overruled a ban on German engineered Mercedes automobiles for non-compliance with the EU ban on R134a.  The court held that banning the sale or registration of cars being sold with R134a as a coolant for the air-conditioning system could not be upheld when the ban was called into place because of suspicions that Daimler, the parent company for Mercedes, was circumventing technical rules for registration of cars using air-conditioning chemical R134a.  Article 5.4 of the Directive states that after January 1, 2011 member states will not be allowed to approve new cars that are to fitted with air-conditioning systems that will emit a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of higher than 150.  R134a has a global warming potential of 1430.  France was concerned that Mercedes had registered cars prior to 2011 with R134a, but then, attempting to comply with regulations decided to switch to R1234yf, which is the only chemical that meets current Directive requirements.  However, after testing, Daimler found that R1234yf was combustible at a lower temperature than R134a and decided against using R1234yf in their vehicles, and returned to using R134a.

The Directive notes that at the time it was enacted, there were currently no cost-effective alternative chemicals on the market to replace R134a.  The Directive also noted that the time tables should be re-evaluated when a suitable replacement is discovered, as it may take longer to implement than originally hoped.

Several car companies are now looking for alternatives or putting off the switch to R1234yf until the risks involved are further defined.  Currently there are only two manufacturers of R1234yf, Honeywell and DuPont, and they are urging the speedy implementation of the EU Directive.  DuPont is confident that the risk associated with R1234yf is “nearly a million times lower than the risk related to car fires from all potential causes, and the risk is well below those commonly considered acceptable by the general public and regulatory agencies.”

 

Following a European Union directive, 40-watt and 25-watt incandescent light bulbs will no longer be manufactured, produced or sold in European Union member states, starting on September 1, 2012. The EU implemented the directive to cut energy costs across all of its member states.

The European Commission writes a draft of a proposed directive. The Commission presents the draft to the European Parliament and to the Council for evaluation and approval or rejection. European directives must be complied with by all member states, but each state can choose its own method of conforming to the directives. Directives have legal effect; even when a directive has not been implemented by a member state it still has a legal effect. This directive, which was implemented on September 1, 2009, consists of phasing out incandescent light bulbs over the succeeding four years. Some retailers stopped selling incandescent light bulbs before the directive was enacted.

The phase out has received support from green groups, such as Green Alliance. According to The Guardian, Dustin Benton said, “Whatever your view of the EU, this legislation is good news for consumers. It rewards innovative manufacturers and could cut bills by £158 per year. The government should ignore Eurosceptic opposition and help consumers to save money by regulating for efficient products.” But, the directive is receiving opposition from some who do not want to pay the price non-incandescent light bulbs and some who believe that other bulbs do not work as well as the incandescent bulbs.

The EU action is comparable to the U.S.’s policy in adopting the Energy Independence and Security Act. The U.S. Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which states that 100-watt incandescent light bulbs will no longer be manufactured, produced or imported in the US, starting on January 1, 2012. 100-watt incandescent light bulbs can be sold in U.S. stores until there are no more left to sell. The U.S. law’s goals are similar to the EU directive to lower energy consumption and to cut energy cost.

Peter Hunt, joint chief executive of the Lighting Industry Association, said to the Guardian, “The phase-out has been very smooth. Concerns about poor performance of replacement bulbs have been proved wrong. The new LED replacements for halogen downlighters that have come on to the market over the past year work just as well, for example. Price is still a barrier, but that’s coming down almost daily as volume increases.”

James Russil of Energy Saving Trust told The Guardian the directive can save the average home £30 a year and that the directive is making a “real difference” in energy consumption.  Anything can help when 19% of electricity is consumed by lighting. No specific goal has been stated at this time.




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