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PLASTIC WASTE : TRADE SECTOR PRESSES FOR VOLUNTARY APPROACH.

As the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment (ENVI), meeting on 10 March in Strasbourg, prepared to adopt a position on a report by Margrete Auken (Greens-EFA, Denmark) on the draft directive to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags -aCOM(2013)761 - organisations representing the trade sector (EuroCommerce) and small and medium-sized businesses (UEAPME) called for a voluntary and more holistic approach to the problem of plastic waste.

The preparatory impact assessment recommends a combination of a waste prevention target at EU level and national measures requiring sales outlets to sell plastic carrier bags. But the Commission simply recommends a target for the EU (minus 80% in two years), leaving the ways and means to member states. Such a choice contravenes its own analysis and is "hard to understand," notes Auken.

Selling plastic bags to consumers can reduce their consumption: all the countries that have implemented this approach have achieved a relatively low level of consumption of plastic bags. This should be put into general practice throughout the EU for all carrier bags, regardless of the material from which they are made, notes Auken. She also suggests that a distinction should be made between light plastic bags (thickness of ten to 49 microns) and very lightweight bags (less than ten microns). Since very lightweight bags present advantages in terms of hygiene for the handling of unwrapped fresh wet foods and since there are no alternatives, there should be a reduction - without a specific target being proposed - or a gradual replacement by carrier bags made from compostable biomaterials from sustainable resources or recycled paper.

UEAPME and EuroCommerce are concerned. They find that the proposal as it stands will not solve the plastic waste problem, which needs to be addressed in a more inclusive manner, with a focus on plastic waste in general. The question of plastic bags should be dealt with in the context of revision of the directive on packaging and packaging waste, the proposal for which is due this summer.

The sector also calls for recognition of "the importance of the existing voluntary initiatives" in numerous member states that have been shown to be effective: these countries should not have to take on additional obligations. It also objects to the introduction of an EU-wide reduction target on the use of lightweight plastic bags, arguing that it would impose too strong a phase-down of such bags, leading to negative consequences for retailers and SME producers.

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Publication:Europe Environment
Date:Mar 21, 2014
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