New EU rules to reduce plastic bag use have been agreed in Europe, thanks to leadership by the Greens. The new legislation will cut the number of bags Europeans use each year by more than three quarters in just over a decade. It is the first time binding measures to reduce waste at EU level have been agreed.

The legislation was agreed following careful steering by the lead negotiator, Danish Green MEP Margrete Auken. EU governments will now be compelled to adopt measures to drastically reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags.

The new legislation has received unanimous European Council backing, despite attempts by the UK government to scupper the deal. UK opposition came despite evidence of how a 5p price on plastic bags has reduced usage in Wales by up to 96% [3]. Similar reductions in usage have been seen in Northern Ireland and the government has agreed to introduce a 5p charge on plastic bags in England next year. Responding to the news South West MEP, Molly Scott Cato, said:

“While the UK government and UKIP seem determined to outcompete each on opposition to any EU initiative, Greens are getting on with the task of working to build a Europe for the common good. By working constructively and building consensus Greens have managed, yet again, to push through another important piece of environmental legislation”.

Under the new proposals, EU states can opt for mandatory pricing of bags by 2019, or agree to binding targets to reduce the number of plastic bags used annually per person from 191 now to 90 by 2019 and 40 in 2025. Dr Scott Cato concluded:

“Plastic waste respects no borders. The terrible damage that it inflicts, particularly on marine animals and birds is well documented [4]. As an area surrounded by sea, this is particularly positive news for our valuable marine habitats in the South West.”

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