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EU seeks to reduce plastic bag usage

March 2, 2015

The European Union has approved new rules to curb the use of flimsy plastic bags that are hazardous for the environment. EU countries are permitted to introduce extra taxes or even ban single-use plastic bags.

Symbolbild Plastiktüten Verbot Umweltschutz
Image: Getty Images

The 28 EU member states gave their final approval to new rules regarding plastic bags on Monday. Member states are required to reduce the use of flimsy plastic bags by 80 percent by 2025. However, they are given a choice on how to achieve that goal.

According to the new rules, EU countries are permitted to introduce extra taxes on plastic bags or even ban single-use plastic bags on a national level.

Margrete Auken, a Danish Member of the European Parliament from the Green Party, pushed the new legislation through and called the approval "a historic breakthrough in tackling the pervasive problem of plastic waste."

According to the German Federal Environment Agency, every EU citizen uses an average of almost 200 plastic bags per year. In Europe, about eight billion of these bags end up as litter every year. "Discarded plastic bags can last for hundreds of years," the EU-Commission warned. It is estimated that 94 percent of the birds in the North Sea area swallowed plastic particles.

The consumption of single-use plastic bags varies greatly in the EU. In Denmark and Finland, only four lightweight plastic bags are used per year per person - compared to more than 460 in Poland, Portugal and Slovakia.

das/jil (dpa, AP)