The European Parliament in Strasbourg has started a war on disposable bags: the number of bags used per inhabitant per year should drop from 200 now to to 90 in 2019 and even 40 in 2025 - a decrease by 80 billion bags per year!
100 billion disposable bags per year
According to the European Commission, an average European citizen currently uses 200 plastic disposable bags per year, which results in 100 billion plastic bags per year in total. 90 % of those are handed out by supermarkets, of which eight billion end up at a landfill and an equal number gets dumped in nature, filling up waterways and oceans. The degradation process for one single bag takes up to thirty years.
The European Parliament will now fight these environmentally unfriendly disposable bags: it has issued target numbers, and now it is up to the member states to decide how to reach these targets. They can either enforce a price for each bag or take other measures to drastically limit their use - such as the enforcement of the use of reusable bags.
Belgium performs (relatively) well
Averaging 98 bags per inhabitant, Belgium performs relatively well. "Progressive countries, like Belgium, have shown that adding a price tag to the plastic bags will drastically limit their use", Bart Staes (MEP for the Belgian green party Groen) said. "Voluntary efforts from the Belgian supermarket chains have helped limit their use 80 % in Flanders and 60 % in Wallonia. (...) This is a clear example of getting the polluter to pay."
His liberal colleague Philippe De Backer "we all benefit from the stricter regulations Europe that now enforces on its member states. Our waste will shrink and tax payers will not have to pay as much to get waste collected and processed." That is why he has asked "clothes stores to consider how they can replace their plastic bags with something else".
Forbidden in the Netherlands?
Bas Eickhout (MEP for the Dutch green party GroenLinks) is very happy that Europe "has finally taken action against the plastic soup in our oceans. Every year, millions of sea creatures die because of plastic in their stomach. Now that Europe will no longer had out these plastic bags for free, we can help prevent such things from happening." Wilma Mansveld (the Dutch State Secretary for the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment) is even considering an all-out ban on free plastic disposable bags starting in 2016.
Trade organizations are hesitant about that ban: "It is a measure that will mainly target stores and consumers. Pretty much every entrepreneur gives the customer a bag to safely carry his purchase. The idea to get customers to shop with their own big-bag is not very realistic", NVER CEO Martin de Wilde said - apparently ignoring the results of the similar action in Belgium.