The European Parliament voted to give final approval to new EU rules to reduce plastic bag use. The new rules oblige EU governments to adopt measures to drastically reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags. The European Green Party had the chance to interview Green MEP Margrete Auken, the European Parliament's rapporteur for the legislation.
Why does the European Union care about plastic bags? Isn't this just another case of Brussels overregulating our daily lives?
The use of plastic bags is not a small issue. Every year, nearly 100 billion of them are consumed in the EU, and the number was expected to grow to 111 billion by 2020, if we hadn't done anything about it.
Plastic is catastrophic towards nature, yet makes up 70% of the waste that is found in European waters. Up to 70% of this waste consists of plastic bags!
Are there any EU member states that have already introduced effective measures to tackle the issue?
Certainly! Ireland for example introduced a charge for plastic bags, and within 5 months, their consumption was reduced by 91%.
I recently also heard of similar price tactics in Portugal that proved successful, and in parts of Spain, voluntary agreements are having good results. Several more positive examples do exist.
Do you think that the new decision that has been reached is a real European solution to this problem?
The new law is a big step in the right direction. Even though we've had a waste strategy in the EU since the 1970's, with reduction as the number one priority, this new law is the first to actually go further.
As a Green rapporteur (lead negotiator) on this legislation, how difficult was it for you to convince the other political groups in the European Parliament, as well as the individual governments of the member states, to agree on these measures?
EU citizens wanted a change, and this helped a lot. I actually experienced a great deal of support from many colleagues coming from various political groups in the European Parliament as well as from several member states.