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MEPs vote to scrap wasteful single-use plastic bags

Brussels, 16th April 2014 - Seas At Risk welcomes today’s vote by the European Parliament that will enable member states to ban plastic bags and that sets a strong target of 80% reduction in usage within five years.

This is a good first step towards preventing these damaging and wasteful items from entering our seas. The promotion of biodegradable bags, however will damage the overall effectiveness of the measure in tackling marine litter.

Public support for strong action at EU level is high - the Commission’s public consultation in 2011 had over 15000 citizens responding, with 71% agreed that a ban on single use plastics was desirable.

Plastic bags cause a serious problem in the marine environment, persisting for centuries and eventually breaking into small pieces that can be ingested by marine organisms. Carrier bags are consistently in the top five items found on European beaches during monitoring.

Seas At Risk is disappointed that MEPs are encouraging the use of biodegradable and compostable bags. By replacing one type of single-use plastic with another kind, we are shifting our poor usage of resources, and delaying the necessary change in our behaviour. There is no evidence that the materials these bags are made from fully biodegrades in the marine environment.

Seas At Risk Marine Litter Policy Officer Emma Priestland said: “Today, MEPs have taken a significant step for the protection of the marine environment, and have put the wishes of European citizens before those of industry groups. In doing so in their last sitting, they’ve contributed to a positive legacy of action on environmental issues. We are nonetheless disappointed that biodegradable plastics have been included in the measure, as they have not been shown to be a solution to the problems of waste or marine litter.”


For more information contact Ed Davitt, Seas At Risk Communications Officer, on +32 2 893 0965 or by email at

Seas At Risk is a European association of non-governmental environmental organisations working to protect and restore to health the marine environment of the European seas and the wider North East Atlantic.