15,000 Citizens Responded; 70% Said Ban Bags
Last year, the European Commission (EC) issued a consultation (survey) asking the citizens of its 27 member countries how best to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags. 70.55% of the respondents agreed that an EU ban on plastic carrier bags is needed. A total of 78.3% agreed that it was necessary to adopt measures at EU level to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags. The survey garnered a total of 15,538 responses and 96.9% of respondents (15,056) were private citizens.
When asked if pricing measures could effectively reduce the use of plastic carrier bags, 62.8% agreed and 57.15% said it should be at the EU level. 50.9% said that it should be mandatory to label or mark biodegradable packaging products to increase their visibility. Under the rules of the European Commission, plastic carrier bags are classified as packaging under the current EU Packaging Directive.
The survey was in response to member country Austria requesting the EC to analyze plastic bag issues at the EC meeting on March 14, 2011. The web-based consultation ran from 18 May, 2011 to 9 August, 2011.
In announcing the survey, European Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik said: “Fifty years ago, the single-use plastic bag was almost unheard of – now we use them for a few minutes and they pollute our environment for decades. But social attitudes are evolving and there is a widespread desire for change. That's why we are looking at all the options, including a Europe-wide ban on plastic carrier bags. We need the views of as many people as possible to complement our scientific analyses (1) and help drive policy on this issue, which is suffocating our environment."
Reducing the use of plastic carrier bags
Every year, the average EU citizen consumes approximately 500 plastic carrier bags, and most of them are used only once. The low weight and small size of plastic bags means they often escape waste management and end up in the marine environment, where their eventual decay can take hundreds of years.
Some EU Member States have already taken action to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags through pricing measures, agreements with the retail sector and bans on certain types of bags, but no specific measures exist at the EU level. In March 2011 EU environment ministers discussed the environmental impact of plastic carrier bags and the concerns they raised indicated that effective EU action is needed.
The longevity of plastic bags means that there are now some 250 billion plastic particles with a combined weight of 500 tonnes floating in the Mediterranean Sea alone.(2) These particles can cause suffocation in sea creatures that ingest them accidentally or mistake them for food. Plastics break into tiny particles, and have a high potential for contaminating soil and waterways as they may contain additives such as persistent organic pollutants.
See the full European Commission Plastic Bag Consultation.
Source: European Commission
(1) European Commission (DG Environment) Plastic waste in the environment – Final Report - April 2011
(2) European Commission, 2011