Novara, 16 April 2014 – The European Parliament today voted on the draft European Directive on carrier bags presented by the Commission on 4 November 2013.
This is a historical vote because it is the first time that the European Parliament has given the go-ahead to legislation exclusively aiming at minimising the production of waste and incentivising virtuous models inspired by the circular economy, one of the EU’s strategic priorities.
The vote in the Parliament fully confirmed what had already transpired from the Environment Committee: Italy can retain its model, Europe recognises the differences between Member States and the possibility for each of them to take different paths in order to reach the common goal of reducing the number of plastic carrier bags by 50 percent compared to 2010 within 3 years and by 80% in 5 years.
In the event of taxation rather than a ban, the duty levied must be high enough to reach the reduction targets set. In order to avoid the directive being distorted or circumvented, it contains a provision that reusable plastic bags cannot cost less than single-use bags. In Ireland, for example, in order to reach the goal of an 80% reduction in carrier bags, a tax of 22 cents was applied. No reusable carriers can therefore be sold below this threshold mark. Additionally ultra-thin plastic bags such as those used to carry fruit and vegetables cannot be used.
Through this price differential the contribution made by biodegradable and compostable bags to improving the quality and quantity of separately collected organic waste is recognised. Following this logic, fruit and vegetables bags less than 10um thick should be biodegradable and compostable within 5 years from implementation of the directive.
In the current state of affairs, the directive voted in by the European Parliament recognises the positive results of the Italian regulation on plastic bags in terms of transforming the problem of organic waste into a development opportunity. With its law, Italy has in fact already brought the consumption of single-use carrier bags down from around 180,000 tons in 2010 to around 90,000 in 2013, a reduction of some 50%; it has also improved the quality and quantity of organic waste by creating a veritable model for separate waste collection, which works in the same way both in low population density areas and those of high density, as the case of Milan demonstrates.
“This ruling is a historical turning point because the European Parliament has for the first time clearly expressed itself by introducing a regulatory model aimed at minimising the production of waste and which, at the same time, also incentivises models that mimic biological systems and keep the resources used in circulation. The model is based on the virtuous development of the sector in which quality compost is produced from door-to-door type, separate collection of municipal waste and the evolution of research and innovation in the biodegradable bioplastics sector. The interplay of these two developments which have evolved over the years has set in motion a series of virtuous actions and cooperation initiatives between various stakeholders (businesses, institutions, research bodies, trade associations, authorities) generating the ideal connective tissue to promote a change in the economic model, with the efficient use of resources at its centre”, declared Catia Bastioli, CEO of Novamont.