Figures from the European Commission show that over 100 billion carrier bags are used every year within the EU, working out at an average of 200 per person. 8 billion of these end up as litter, many of them in Europe’s seas, including in the English Channel and North Sea.
EU countries will be given the flexibility to choose how they reach a binding target of 50% reduction in plastic bag use within three years and 80% reduction within five years of the legislation coming into force.
Liberal Democrats in coalition government have announced a 5p charge per plastic bag to be introduced across the whole of the UK in 2015. In Wales supermarkets have reported reductions of up to 96% in the use of single-use plastic bags following the introduction of a 5p charge in 2011, suggesting the UK is already on track to meet the EU targets.
However, despite this Conservative MEPs have opposed the EU proposal, and attempted to put down a wrecking amendment that would have created a loophole by exempting all restaurants and cafeterias from the EU targets.
Liberal Democrat European Environment Spokesperson Chris Davies MEP commented:
“Discarded plastic bags are killing millions of marine animals each year. It’s become a massive problem across Europe and one we must deal with together.
“Every country has the right to decide what action to take, but the need to reduce the huge volumes of plastic waste we create should not be in dispute.
“But yet again we see the Conservatives dancing to the UKIP tune by trying to wreck this EU proposal.
“Liberal Democrats in government have already proposed measures to reduce plastic bag use in Britain, we are now leading the way in ensuring that similar measures are taken across the European continent.”
Notes to Editors
The full report voted today can be found here. The final legislation must still be approved by national governments in the EU Council.
Results of how individual MEPs voted will be published here on the European Parliament website at approximately 2pm BST.