13 Nov

EU Ministers block plastic bag waste progress

Shame of EU Ministers failure to cut plastic bag waste.

This is not a good state of affairs to find at EU ministerial level. You see, a  group of European Union (EU) Member States – including the UK, Romania, Greece, Croatia and Poland – is blocking a European Parliament proposal to reduce EU plastic bag use by 80% by 2019.plastic_bag
As it currently stands we will not see an EU wide strategy to cut plastic bag  waste. If we want to follow the progress made in Ireland ,and now with the UK following, we need to push for an EU wide effort to cut out single use plastic bags.
The plastic bag levy was first introduced in the EU by Ireland on 4th March 2002 at the rate of 15 cent per bag . It has resulted in a 90% drop in consumption saving over a billion bags annually from landfill. California and Hawaii are also recent examples of Plastic bag bans.

Backward step.

This latest development is a serious backward step, because if  talks do not produce an agreement, the proposal will have to be rethought and could be lost completely.

What’s the current status? Well,  right now at time of writing, a group of European Union (EU) Member States – including the UK, Romania, Greece, Croatia and Poland – is blocking a European Parliament proposal to reduce plastic bag use by 80% by 2019.

This is in complete opposition to the 92% of Europeans who agree that measures should be taken to reduce single plastic bag use.

According to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the European Parliament proposals to impose charges on customers for plastic bags would mean savings and profits amounting to €650m per year between 2015 and 2020 for public authorities, manufacturers and retailers.

ZeroWasters around Europe have long urged taxation on one-time use , non-recyclable bags. This latest opposition simply amounts to a failure by our leaders to respect  the environment, common sense  or public opinion.  They show a complete disregard for the negative environmental consequences of pollution from plastic bags which we see all around us every day.

Negotiatins between the European Parliament, Council of European Union and European Commission will restart  on Monday 17 November, with the representatives from each member state meeting this Friday (14 November) ahead of those talks. If they do not produce an agreement, the proposal will have to be rethought and may be scrapped completely.

Despite Ireland’s  success story, the EU Council of Ministers want such decisions to be left up to national governments. We urge our readers to write to their MEP and ask that the EU policy follows that implemented successfully by Ireland.

20 Oct

Scotland carrier bag levy launched

For the first time, from today, a mandatory five-pence bag levy on carrier bags in Scotland is now in place. The new charge includes plastic, paper and biodegradable bags and applies to all retailers, from supermarkets to local stores and takeaways.

Back in May, MSPs courageously voted to bring in the new regulations in a bid to tackle Scotland’s growing litter problem. In fact the charge is a minimum and some outlets may charge more, with many retailers donating proceeds to good causes.

While we agree with the measure for plastic bags , it has also been imposed on single-use carriers made from eco-friendly materials. This is probably unnecessary as we want to encourage the substitution of eco-friendly materials for plastics.

Scotland follows Ireland, which pioneered the move on 4th March 2002 at the rate of 15 cent per bag.  Wales followed in  2011, followed by Northern Ireland last year. Now we expect the  800 million single-use bags that are given out by supermarkets every year in Scotland alone to dramatically decline.

Once the levy is in place it will invariably increase, as is the case in Ireland, which now has a 22c per bag charge. However funds collected are dedicated to environmental projects.

We are encouraged to see that over 160 retailers including M&S, McDonald’s and The Co-op Group have already registered for Zero Waste Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment, which they launched earlier this year.

Plastic Bags

Scotland should be  extremely proud that this landmark legislation is now in force to end the throwaway culture and cure our addiction to plastic carrier bags.

Zero Waste Ireland joins with the many Environmental groups  who have  also welcomed the new mandatory fees.

We know from the Irish experience that , charges for plastic bags have led to dramatic reductions in their use, as well as creating positive changes in consumer behavior and changing mindsets.

In Ireland , it had an immediate effect on consumer behavior
with a decrease in plastic bag usage from an estimated 328 bags per capita to 21 bags per capita overnight. Let’s hope the Scots do even better and reach the current best performing level of Denmark with just 4 bags per capita usage.