Proposal to cut plastic bag waste being torpedoed by group of blocking EU ministers

Press Release

This is a joint statement from the European Environmental Bureau, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Fundació Prevenció de Residus i Consum and Bag Free World.

[Brussels, for immediate release]

Despite strong popular support across the EU for reducing plastic waste [1], a group of EU countries is blocking a European Parliament proposal that would drastically cut the use of plastic carrier bags.

The European Parliament is proposing an 80% reduction target in plastic bag use by 2019 and a requirement for shops to charge customers for plastic bags. The savings and profits for public authorities, manufacturers and retailers could amount to as much as €650 million per year between 2015 and 2020. Despite evidence from Ireland showing that charging for plastic bags is highly successful, the Council continues to argue that such decisions should be left up to national governments.

The deadlock in negotiations between the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament is due to the UK and some of the newer EU Member States refusing to adopt any of the progressive proposals tabled by the European Parliament. The UK has even won over support from other Member States to prevent a ban on oxo-degradable plastics. This is a type of plastic which is neither recyclable nor compostable and which the association of plastics manufacturers says has almost no biodegradation results.

If the final three-way negotiations between the EU institutions on Friday 14 November do not produce an agreement, the proposal will have to return to the drawing board and risks being discarded altogether.

Piotr Barczak, the European Environmental Bureau’s Policy Officer on Waste, said: “This basically amounts to a failure to respect either the environment or public opinion. In spite of strong backing across political groups in the Parliament for the proposal and massive popular support for reductions, the UK and some other countries in the Council persist in showing a complete disregard for the awful environmental consequences of pollution from plastic bags.”

Every European uses an estimated 500 plastic bags a year on average and 92% of these are single-use. The low weight and small size of plastic bags means they often escape waste management and end up in the marine environment, where their eventual decay can take hundreds of years.


Notes to editors

[1] 92% of Europeans agree that measures should be taken to reduce single plastic bag use. See European Commission press release:, 30th June 2014.

[2] See:, page 39.

[3] See:

[4] See:

[5] See:

[6] See:

For further information please contact:
Piotr Barczak, EEB Waste Policy Officer,, or on +32 2 289 1097
Sébastien Pant, EEB Communications Officer for Air Quality and Resource Efficiency,, or on +32 2 790 8817

The European Environmental Bureau is Europe's largest federation of environmental organisations with more than 140 member organisations who gain their membership from the general public. The EEB is guided by the voices of 15 million European citizens, and acts as the ears and voice of its members towards EU decision makers and beyond.

Surfrider Foundation Europe is an environmental association, statute 1901, created in 1990 in France (Biarritz). During its existence, it has achieved real expertise in the areas of research, local action, as well as the creation and diffusion of educational tools. Today, it consists of a network of 1,700 volunteers, 10,000 members and 100,000 supporters in forty local offices that are active in twelve European countries. Find out more:

Fundació Prevenció de Residus i Consum - the Catalan Foundation for Waste Prevention and Responsible Consumption- is a nonprofit organization driven by environmental organizations, universities, companies (some of them retailers) and municipalities. It promotes campaigns (like the International bag-free day, that begun in 2008 as a Catalan scope and leaded to the annual celebration worldwide) and projects for waste prevention and information exchange among social, economical and institutional sectors in order to shift to a circular economy and a resource efficiency society.

BAG FREE WORLD is a global initiative that aims to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags in the world.