What you have to know about plastic bags regulations !

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Plastic bags regulations


Plastic bags appeared massively in Europe in the 1960s. This emergence was linked to the creation and democratization of supermarkets. Bags quickly replaced the wicker baskets of consumers thanks to their lightness and their capacity to carry up to 2000 times their weight.


The use of these bags has grown steadily to reach an annual output between 500 and 1000 billion units at the end of the 20th century. Unfortunetaly the few advantages of plastic bags were quickly overcomed by its many disadvantages. Indeed if a plastic bag can be produced in a few seconds, its degradation can last more than 400 years this is why 30 million of tons of plastic bags end up in the ocean every year (United Nations Program for the environment).

At the European level 8 billions of plastic bags annually end up in the continent’s environment. To fight against this scourge the Parliament and the European Council introduced a first Directive in December 1994 (94/62/CE) on packaging and packaging waste. The first elements of this directive are the incineration of a portion of the waste and the obligation for European citizens to sort and recycle them. This Directive has been amended in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2015.

On the 29th April 2015 an order was carried out by the European Parliament and the Council (approved by 85% of the European Parliament) is mainly linked to the use of plastic bags. Indeed it sets to Europe as targets an annual consumption which should not exceed 90 lightweight plastic bags per person by 31th December 2019 and 40 bags by December 31th 2025. In addition all plastic bags except those with a thickness less than 15 microns will no longer be free by December 31, 2018. Finally oxobiodegradable bags which are manufactured from traditional polymers but with additives will be degraded by the action of light and heat, forming fine particles that are invisible to humans but equally harmful to the environment will be prohibited.

Exterior view of the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Apart from these measures imposed by the parliament some states have decided to go further in the reduction of plastic bags and in the protection of the environment. The first country concerned is Italy which has taken the lead on the directives by banning plastic bags from 2011 in supermarkets and stores.

The second country to be strongly engaged in the fight of plastic bags in addition to the European instructions is France. Indeed in 2016 it has approved an agreement to eliminate bags under 50 microns thick, prohibit plastic disposable tableware in 2020 (unless it is compostable in domestic composting and made up of bio-sourced materials), compostable bio-based bags in industry and not in domestic environment (compost home) in January 2017 and non-biodegradable and compostable plastic packaging for the press and advertising. Moreover for biodegradable bags their biosourced content will have to be at least 30% in January 2017, 40% in January 2018, 50% in January 2020 and 60% in January 2025.

Finally Germany has chosen to make 80% of its bags payable in 2018, Great Britain, Wales, Ireland and Scotland have introduced a tax of 5 cents per bag for businesses with over than 250 employees and Belgium has decided to ban disposable plastic bags in Wallonia from December 2016. Minds are evolving and Europeans are now ready to limit the use of plastic bags (in 2012, over than 70% of the European population was in favor of banning disposable bags) but efforts need to be perpetuated and accentuated because 190,000 plastic bags are always distributed every minute in Europe.





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