UK opposition could doom EU efforts to curb plastic bag use

UK is leading opposition to a proposal for an 80% cut to the 100bn single-use plastic bags used each year in Europe

Plastic bag use in UK : Autumn leaves floating in water with Tesco bag and a duckA bid by the European parliament to impose an 80% cut in the 100bn plastic bags used by Europeans each year could be scuppered by several states opposed to Europe-wide action, and a European commission that increasingly views targets as an unnecessary distraction.

‘Single use’ plastic bags are light, convenient and easily thrown away but their very disposability creates an environmental threat. As many as a million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals – including large numbers of seals and turtles – are killed each year by ingesting plastics or becoming entangled in the growing number of plastic islands that gloss large swathes of the world’s oceans.

But several countries led by the UK and Croatia are opposing EU-wide mandatory pricing or product restrictions for plastic bags. France and Spain are more supportive but the commission’s first vice president Frans Timmermans on Wednesday said that he was “not sure” whether the proposal reflected the previous commission’s original intent.

The Guardian has learned that the commission’s secretariat-general is currently discussing whether to reject the proposal in a final negotiating round on Monday, sending it back to a council of EU ministers where it would likely be blocked by the need for unanimity.

“I fear that although the member states agree that we have to act, they do not want us to tackle it at the European level altogether,” said the Dutch Liberal MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy. “It is extremely worrying as this is the fundament of EU environmental legislation.”

“Plastic bags are a huge environmental problem that can be very easily solved, and that doesn’t happen very often anymore in the environmental field,” he added.

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