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Arhiv: MEP’s plastic bag proposals win large backing

The European Parliament signalled its support for much tougher EU measures to cut the use of plastic carrier bags in a vote on Wednesday despite industry opposition.
The environment committee’s proposals, which include a call for reduction targets for lightweight plastic bags and mandatory pricing for those offered in food shops, were approved by 539 votes with 51 against and 72 abstentions.
The use of these bags would have to be cut by 50% by 2017 and 80% by 2019.
Lead MEP Margrete Auken from the Greens/EFA group successfully defended a provisionallowing member states to ban plastic bags against an amendment tabled by the conservative ECR group by a 455 vote majority.
A considerable majority of MEPs were also in favour of preferential treatment for biodegradable and compostable bags, as recommended by Ms Auken and the committee, and backed her wider call for carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) substances and endocrine disruptors to be phased out of all packaging.
Other amendments exempting the fast-food industry from the directive were also rejected. The sector had argued reusable bags pose a health risk.
The centre-right EPP group was apparently divided on the national bans issue, initially moving towards the ECR position and then swinging back towards the stance it took in the environment committee on Wednesday morning.
Trade body PlasticsEurope and packaging association Europen said they were “very alarmed” by the outcome of the vote. They and other industry bodies had lobbied hard against allowing national bans, warning they could set an unwelcome precedent, and also dislike the provision on CMRs and endocrine disruptors.
Environmental groups were much happier, although Seas at Risk criticised the support for biodegradable and compostable bags which it said still cause marine littering.
The Commission’s original proposal only required member states to reduce the use of lightweight plastic bags and left it up to them to decide how to achieve this goal.
Ms Auken is doing well in the polls in her native Denmark and will continue to lead the file in negotiations with the Council of Ministers if she is re-elected.
Follow Up:
European Parliament press release and file. See also comments fromPlasticsEurope/Europen and Seas at Risk