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Reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags in the EU

Reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags in the EU

Existing European Union legislation on packaging waste does not contain specific measures for lightweight plastic carrier bags. These can have a harmful impact on the environment and their consumption needs to be reduced.

ACT

Directive (EU) 2015/720 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2015 amending Directive 94/62/EC as regards reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags

SUMMARY

WHAT DOES THE DIRECTIVE DO?

It amends Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste. It sets out ways and targets to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags, including imposing charges or setting national maximum consumption targets.

KEY POINTS

EU countries must take measures to reduce the consumption of lightweight* plastic carrier bags. These may include national reduction targets, restrictions on their use or financial measures such as charging for them.

The measures must include either one or both of the following:

  • 1.
    defining a maximum annual consumption level of:
    • 90 lightweight plastic carrier bags per person by the end of 2019 (a 50 % reduction compared to 2010) and
    • 40 lightweight plastic carrier bags per person by the end of 2025 (an 80 % reduction compared to 2010)
  • 2.

    ensuring that, by the end of 2018, lightweight plastic carrier bags are not provided free of charge at the point of sale of goods or products.

Very lightweight* plastic carrier bags may be excluded from both the above measures.

From 27 May 2018, EU countries must report the annual consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags to the European Commission.

The Commission will work out details by May 2017 of labels or identification marks for biodegradable and compostable plastic carrier bags. These should be used at the latest 18 months after their adoption.

EU governments and the Commission will encourage public information and awareness campaigns, particularly in the 12 months from 27 November 2016.

KEY TERMS

* Lightweight plastic carrier bag: wall thickness below 50 microns

* Very lightweight plastic carrier bag: wall thickness below 15 microns, used for hygiene purposes or as primary packaging for loose food when this helps to prevent wastage.

BACKGROUND

Lightweight plastic carrier bags are a major source of litter, damage the environment and are an inefficient use of resources. Some EU countries have managed to significantly reduce their consumption: in the seven best performing ones, consumption levels are one-fifth the EU average.

For more information, see Packaging and Packaging Waste on the European Commission's website.

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive (EU) 2015/720

26.5.2015

27.11.2016

OJ L 115, 6.5.2015, pp. 11-15

RELATED ACTS

European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC of 20 December 1994 on packaging and packaging waste (OJ L 365, 31.12.1994, pp. 10-23). See consolidated version.

last update 24.09.2015

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