The battle continues against plastic pollution

The fight against plastic bags continues. But despite laws at the EU level, many states are proving reluctant to drive real change.

Even though Europe is taking a big hit right now because of Covid-19, the fight against plastic pollution is continuing. Unfortunately, that fight is still a long way from being won.

EU countries are now transposing the EU Directive on plastic bags into their national laws. However, only some are taking real action that will ensure the use of plastic bags is eliminated. 

Research has recently shown that much of Europe is still allowing the use of single-use plastic bags in some circumstances: biodegradable plastic bags (in Italy, Austria, Malta); biobased plastic bags (in the Brussels region of Belgium); bags sold in open markets (in Greece); very lightweight plastic bags (in the majority of Member States); and even bags with no handle (in Romania). And some countries are completely ignoring the directive.

Despite attempts made over the years to tackle this problem, it is still very much with us. Plastic bags are a huge source of pollution in our ocean. Other single-use plastic items add further to pollution. The impact on marine life across the globe is catastrophic.      

Plastic bag pollution is now officially at a crisis point. There is a need for legislation to be implemented so that a reduction in plastic pollution can be enforced.

Gaëlle Haut, European Affairs Officer at Surfrider Foundation Europe believes that too many EU countries have chosen low-ambition measures or allowed too many circumstances where single-use plastic bags can continue to be used.

Speaking on behalf of the Rethink Plastic Alliance she said: “With the objective of reducing consumption of plastic bags by half at the end of 2019, citizens are waiting for new measures to be adopted by July 2021 to further limit disposable plastics. It’s time to make things right and ensure positive action to tackle plastic pollution”.

International Plastic Bag Free Day was celebrated on 3 June 2020, ahead of the commission’s deadline for member states to show evidence of pollution reduction measures. Unfortunately, real progress seems very limited.   

It remains uncertain whether plastic bags will ever be banned. Businesses are lobbying national governments for derogations for their products, most notably for biodegradable bags. The green light has been given for the use of single-use plastic bags in many circumstances, without considering the effects this will have on our environment and our oceans.

The Rethink Plastic alliance is now reaching out to EU member states, asking them to adopt ambitious measures to reduce the consumption and provide guarantees for the proper enforcement of anti-pollution measures. It’s critical that EU members remove exemptions on biodegradable and bio-based plastic bags, in line with the Single Use Plastic Directive.

Unless this happened marine and land pollution will continue to damage our wildlife, our environment and our planet.

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