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article imageEuropean Union passes limits on plastic bags

By Karen Graham     Nov 29, 2014 in Environment
In an historic move this past week, the European Union approved a measure that would reduce the consumption of one-use plastic bags handed out in retail stores. The measure is expected to reduce the number of bags used by 75 percent over the next decade.
After much discussion over the proposed measure, a compromise was reached. Most of the dissension came from U.K. members who were unhappy over the measure's legally-enforceable elements, even though the U.K. plans to put a price on plastic bags next year, according to the Guardian.
Under the measure, member countries can do one of two things. Member states can take measures to ensure that no more than 90 bags per person be used annually by 2019, and 40 bags per person annually by 2025. As an alternative measure, countries have to ensure that after 2018, no plastic one-use bags will be handed out free of charge.
The measure applies to bags that are 50 microns or less in thickness. This encompasses 90 percent of the one-use plastic bags currently being used, and they are the bags most likely to end up littering city streets and the countryside. Four years ago, the average EU citizen used about 176 plastic bags a year, and most of them were not recycled. But it was also found that the number of bags used annually varied by country. Poles and Slovaks use a high of 466 bags annually, and Danes use about four plastic bags annually.
European Parliament member (MEP) from Denmark Margrete Auken, who is steering the legislation through the European Parliament, said: “This is an historic moment for all of Europe. For the first time ever we have agreed on ambitious measures to reduce the amount of plastic bag waste in the environment. This is good news for the environment and all Europeans who expected the EU to take ambitious action on plastic bags. As front-running countries have demonstrated, dramatically reducing the consumption of these disposable bags is easily achievable with a consistent policy. Swiftly phasing out these bags is a readily-implementable solution to the pervasive problem of plastic waste in the environment.”
The plastics industry is not too thrilled with the measure, saying different nations applying different rules on plastic bags will impede trade. PlasticsEurope, representing the plastics industry said of the proposed measure, “It opens the door for member states to ban not only plastic bags but other types of packaging. Such an inconsistent political framework would hinder investments and innovation and would create barriers to trade in packaged goods in Europe.”
Plastic bags are not only an eyesore to the environment, but they are lethal, as well. Think of this; every piece of plastic made since the 1950s is still here, someplace on the planet. Plastic doesn't degrade, and it will stay here for centuries to come. At least 90 percent of all the garbage floating around in our oceans is plastics. Plastics kill at least two million birds, sea turtles, dolphins, whales, seals and sea lions every year.
More about European union, Plastic bags, victory for environment, oneuse plastic bags, plastic waste
 
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