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Environment commissioner mulls further plastic bags reduction measures

The European Commission could consider mandating stricter measures to reduce the use of plastic bags, the environment commissioner has said.

In an article for The Parliament Magazine, Janez Potočnik cited policy initiatives recently backed by the EU Parliament.

They include a target for member states to halve the use of plastics bags thinner than 50 microns by 2017, on a 2010 baseline. The Parliamentary report also suggested the use of taxes, levies, marketing restrictions or bans to stop shops from giving out plastic bags for free.

“While the proposal does not prescribe specific measures or a target,” said Potočnik, “it does highlight the important role various instruments play in reducing the consumption of plastic bags.

“That said, there is nothing to prevent the commission from considering an EU-wide reduction target in the future, if this proposal does not bring the expected results,” he added.

Plastics bags are a major component of marine pollution, Potočnik noted.

The commissioner acknowledged the usefulness, durability and versatility of plastics, but said more should be done to increase the material’s recycling rate across Europe.

“There will be huge benefits, both economic and environmental, to enhanced recycling. We will use resources more efficiently, thus preparing for future shortages. We will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower imports of raw materials and fossil fuels.”

On the controversial issue of bioplastics, he said: “Biodegradable plastics and bioplastics are not a simple solution, and can cause other problems and challenges, particularly when they enter recycling streams. They need to be looked at carefully on a case-by-case basis.”

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