By Poly Pantelides
CYPRUS will soon be expected to reduce the use of plastic bags, a tall task for the island whose authorities have no policy in place to address an estimated usage of 660,000 plastic bags a day.
The European Commission adopted a proposal yesterday amending existing legislation to oblige member states to reduce the use of lightweight plastic carrier bags. The proposal targets mostly single-use plastic bags that in Cyprus tend to be readily handed out in kiosks, supermarkets and bakeries.
Member states will be free to choose how to implement the policy, including setting their own reduction targets, to some extent.
Over 8.0 billion plastic bags end up as litter in Europe every year, “causing enormous environmental damage,” the European Commission’s environment commissioner, Janez Potočnik said.
He referred to some “great results” by some member states but Cyprus was not one of them.
No measures were in place in Cyprus to reduce the use of plastic bags, the European Commission’s working document on the proposal said. But member states which have been successful in reducing consumption levels are all the same in “the fact that plastic bags are not given away for free,” the European Commission said elsewhere in its report.
Some bigger outlets in Cyprus do force their customers to pay for their bags, and others offer alternative reusable bags, however the practice is not widespread.
A 2011 report by Europrism Research placed typical household use of plastic bags to three a day, estimating a collective use of 660,000 plastic bags island-wide each day. EU 2010 figures estimate that each European household uses more than one plastic bag a day.
The European Commission said it was worried in relation to evidence of “large debris accumulation” along Greece’s and Cyprus’ coasts and debris lying on the deep sea floor in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Discarded plastic bags can last for hundreds of years, and the energy costs make recycling plastic bags an unattractive option.
Even biodegradable bags remain in the environment as the tiniest of pieces, constituting fire hazards in landfills and a risk to the marine life mistaking them for food.
The European Parliament and the Council will need to approve the plastic bags’ proposal before it comes into effect. From then on, member states will have a year to amend their own national laws and two years to implement the Directive.
Visit http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/packaging/legis.htm for more information.