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Brussels, 16 April 2014
Statement by Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik after the vote in the European Parliament on Commission's proposal on plastic bags
We moved a step closer to our aim of an 80% reduction in use of lightweight plastic bags in Europe today, when the European Parliament voted on its report on the Commission's proposal. I am delighted that this is moving forward quickly and I look forward to engaging with the new Parliament after the elections to try to get a rapid adoption of this important initiative. My congratulations go to the author of the Parliament's report, Margarete Auken, who got strong support for her report.
The huge and growing consumption rates of plastic bags –100 billion bags per year in the EU alone – demonstrates a reckless waste of resources; plastic bags are a symbol of our throw-away society and unsustainable lifestyles. We use them for a few minutes, but their legacy lasts for hundreds of years, often as harmful microscopic particles that are damaging the environment worldwide, especially the marine environment. In the North Sea, the stomachs of 94 % of all birds contain plastic.
Public opinion is strongly behind reducing use of lightweight plastic bags, but public behaviour change needs a nudge. This is the clear lesson from Member States, such as Ireland, which have shown simple measures can lead to big changes. That is why the Commission proposal calls on Member States to take implement measures to secure an 80% reduction in lightweight bags - no matter what kind of plastic they are made from, and it allows Member States to ban them, so long as they respect internal market rules. I am pleased that moves by some in the Parliament to reject this last possibility did not gain support.
From the Parliament's vote it is clear that the Commission and Parliament share the same objective, but we may still need more discussion on the measures best suited to achieve that objective. We will be analysing the amendments in the report very carefully.
For more information:
IP/13/1017: Environment: Commission proposes to reduce the use of plastic bags