On the 9th of July, the European Parliament has voted in favour of an amendment to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. This new legislation, is designed to regulate plastic carrier bags less than 50μm thick. The legislation gives national goverments two ways to implement the regulation: they can either reduce consumption to 90 plastic carrier bags per citizen/year by 2019 and 40 bags/year by 2025 or introduce a mandatory charge for shoppers by 2018. Today, every EU citizen uses about 198 plastic carrier bags/year.
The aim of this new legislation is to reduce plastic waste in our environment. Every year, more than 8 billion plastic bags end up as litter in Europe. Littering of plastic carrier bags leads to a widespread problem of rubbish in water bodies, threatening acquatic ecosystems worldwide. Apart from the ugliness to swim in seas full of rubbish, there are also the invisible dangers. Recent studies have shown that degradable plastic bags under the effect of sunlight and salty water, degrade quickly to tiny pieces of microplastics which are impossible to recollect from the environment and they end, through the food chain, to our plates.
Plastic bag after the exposure to sunlight:
Furthermore, littering of plastic carrier bags is an inefficient use of resources since they are made from fossil raw materials. As an alternative, paper carrier bags have some exceptional environmental credentials that no other bag types have: they are natural, biodegradable and recyclable, come from an infinitely renewable resource and are produced in a sustainable manner. Paper carrier bags are strong, have excellent printability, can have either a glossy or a smooth surface and have vey good stiffness to keep the packed goods safe.