Over eight billion plastic bags end up as litter every year in Europe, causing enormous environmental damage. Now light plastic bags (0.05 mm or 50 microns in thickness) for single use are in the firing line of the EU executive, which has proposed a directive obliging member states to reduce the use of lightweight plastic carrier bags on their territory. There is no clear target figure at the moment, only a desire to radically reduce the use of this type of this bag, with member states being able to choose the measures they consider appropriate to achieve this goal, whether through charges, national reduction targets or a ban on the use of such bags under certain conditions.

"Some member states have already achieved great results in terms of reducing their use of plastic bags. If others followed suit we could reduce today's overall consumption in the European Union by as much as 80%," said Environment Commissioner JanezaPotocnik, recommending the approach taken by Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Luxembourg.

The directive, proposed on 4 November, comes in the wake of measures taken by different member states, as well as a call from the Council for the Commission to examine possibilities for action at EU level (March 2011) and a public consultation in March 2013 - COM(2013)123.

The EU regulates on packaging and waste from packaging under Directive 94/62/EC. However, this directive is generalised, and there are no particular measures applying to plastic waste. In the last 20 years, lightweight plastic bags for single use have become a real plague to the environment, and the EU as well as the international community therefore made a commitment during the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development to drastically reduce marine litter, known as the plastic soup'.

The proposed directive(1) amends the 1994 directive with regard to...

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