Tough new proposed European Union laws will either ban free carrier bags altogether or limit free bags at checkouts to 90 per person annually – and 40 by 2025 – in an effort to curb pollution. That’s some way behind South Africa, which implemented its own plastic bag ban by means of a levy in 2004, effectively banning free bags at checkouts.
More than 8 billion plastic carrier bags add to litter in the region every year, with the sea being the main victim, says EU Socialist and Democrat member Kathleen Van Brempt. “There needs to be a change of mindset in society, so that consumers bring along their own reusable bags when doing their shopping,” she said. Although European shoppers typically have to pack their own bags, they don’t have to bring their own even though their society is heavily invested in recycling.
Van Brempt’s S&D colleague and spokesperson on health and environment, Matthias Groote, added that 92 % of EU citizens support measures to reduce the consumption of plastic bags. “Plastic bags end up in our lakes, rivers and oceans, causing widespread pollution, while taking hundreds of years to decompose. Today, the amount of plastic particles in our oceans is greater than the amount of plankton. The impact on sea life is devastating. The pollutants also enter the food chain, thus endangering human health. Therefore, anyone who wants to use plastic bags should bear the price and the responsibility. One of the proposed measures is to tax the use of disposable plastic bags.”