On March 10th 2014, the European Parliament's ENVI Committee voted in favour of the draft Auken Report on a reduction of lightweight plastic carrier bags. This report was in response to the European Commission's proposal of November 4th 2014 to reduce the use of lightweight plastic carrier bags in Europe. Whilst EuPC did support the basic principles of the European Commission's proposal to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags in Europe (to responsible levels in all EU Member States), EuPC does not support the current wording of the Auken Report and is calling into question the sustainability of the Report’s content for the reasons given below.
EuPC criticises the wording voted in favour of in consolidated amendment 3/9: "Plastic carrier bags made of biodegradable and compostable materials are less harmful on the environment than conventional plastic carrier bags." This statement is absolutely untrue and is not supported by any credible scientific evidence. The fact remains that bio‐degradable plastic carrier bags: i) do not degrade in the marine environment; ii) take a considerable period of time to degrade (if degrading at all) outside of the marine environment and; iii) in the majority of cases, these bio‐degradable plastic bags consist of at least 50% oil based plastics (a typical biodegradable bag is composed of only 15‐35% renewable materials). Therefore, the Auken Report’s statement on bio‐degradable and compostable plastic carrier bags being less harmful on the environment should be removed at plenary level.
EuPC believes, members of the ENVI Committee who voted in favour of the draft Auken Report are in danger of pushing a repeat of the lessons already learnt from the biofuels experience. It is not logical to push one material over another, when there are no credible environmental or economic justifications for doing so. Europe should not regulate a sustainable product used by so many consumers that actually only has the same environmental impact as the consumption of 3 litres of fuel per year per capita.
The Auken Report, is putting plastics recycling streams at risk by favouring bio‐degradable plastic carrier bags over traditional materials (Consolidated amendment 3/2: "Member States that have set up separate collection for bio‐waste may require economic operators selling food to reduce the price by up to 50% of lightweight plastic carrier bags that are biodegradable and compostable."). Such an amendment is putting at risk 20 years of separate collection of plastic fractions in advanced countries such as Germany, Austria etc. EuPC, representing the customers of plastics recyclers (i.e. users of plastics raw materials), has commissioned independent industrial tests that have shown even as low as 2% contamination of degradable materials (in the recycling stream); can have drastic and detrimental impacts on the mechanical and visual properties of products made from contaminated recyclates.
EuPC would, therefore, urge all MEPs in Plenary to oppose the nonsensical provisions in the Auken Report and to not push biodegradable materials as an environmental solution to the problem of littering and marine litter. A more level playing field for all materials is required. EuPC also questions the continued violations, by Italy, of the packaging and packaging waste Directive (94/62/EC) and whether amendments have been introduced to legalise the Italian situation.