In 2010, there were 98.6 billion plastic carrier bags placed on the EU market. It’s estimated that the vast majority of these bags (89%) were single-use. This means that every EU citizen used around 198 plastic carrier bags in 2010 – which represents more than one bag per day for each European household!!!
However, there was a huge difference in consumption between the member states: from only 4 in Finland and Denmark to 466 in Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia!!!
Plastic bags are a real threat for our environment. Why? Because they don’t biodegrade but photodegrade, which means that they break down into smaller toxic fragments which then contaminate soil, waterways and animals upon digestion. It can take up to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to completely break down!
This is why in May 2015, a new European Directive entered into force to finally reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags in Europe. The Directive requires member states to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags with a thickness of below 50 microns by either:
– taking measures to reduce annual average consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags to 90 per person by the end of 2019, and 40 by 2025
– or by ensuring that by the end of 2018, no more lightweight plastic carrier bags are handed over free of charge to shoppers.
Consequently, since 5 October 2015, free plastic bags have been banned in the UK and supermarkets have started to charge 5p per plastic bag. This isn’t a tax and the money raised won’t go to the government but will be donate to environmental causes.
It was about time to do something!
When I arrived to London more than 2 years ago, I was shocked that plastic bags were given for free in almost every supermarket.
In France and in Norway, where the ban hasn’t started yet, plastic bags have been charged since quite a long time.
In France, more and more people, including myself, have taken the habit to bring their own reusable shopping bags.
While in Norway, people normally pay for plastic bags but then recycle them by using them as rubbish bags. Indeed, 82% of plastic bags are used for garbage disposal and 15% are recycled and become new plastic products. This is why The Norwegian Environment Agency is actually pushing for the country to ask for special dispensation allowing it not to enact the law. Let’s remember that Norway isn’t a state member but is closely associated with the European Union through its membership in the European Economic Area (EEA) and must therefore implement all its regulations. So let’s see what will happen.
It’s time to invest in cute reusable shopping bags.
Personally, I always have one my your handbag, just in case!