Enough excuses: time for governments to break free from plastic bags

3 July 2017

More than seven months after EU Member States were scheduled to start the process of slashing the use of plastic bags through the Plastic Bags Directive, Friends of the Earth Europe and 17 other environmental NGOs join Surfrider and Zero Waste Europe to mark the 8th International Plastic Bag Free Day. In this important year where plastic pollution of ocean is considered a priority global concern, the compliance and ambition levels of EU Member States to reduce plastic bags fall short of expectations.

More than 100 billion plastic bags are used annually in Europe, and most end up in landfills, incinerators or in our seas, rivers and lakes, taking centuries to degrade and creating unprecedented damage to marine ecosystems. In addition, producing these bags requires millions of barrels of oil per year, significantly contributing to climate change.


The EU adopted its Plastic Bags Directive in April 2015 to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags in Europe. Member States were given the deadline of transposing it into national laws by 27th November 2016, and introducing measures to cut use to 90 bags per person per year by 31st December 2019, and 40 bags by 31st December 2025.

However, more than 7 months after the transposition deadline, the results have been disappointing, with many Member States showing a lack of follow-through on the commitments they have made. Some have only taxed plastic bags at an extremely low rate, set voluntary agreements with the private sector, or simply relayed the Commission's message about the risk posed by plastic pollution. It is unfortunate that many Member States have demonstrated no ambition or effectiveness in implementing this vital law, to the detriment of the environment.

#BanTheBag in Spain

Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said "Member States need to step up and take more ambitious and concrete measures against plastic bag pollution. Our plastic obsession is impacting the environment and communities globally. The production and use of unnecessary plastic items, like single-use plastics bags, simply does not add up in when the solution is as easy as carrying a re-useable bag. With our oceans suffocating under the weight of throwaway plastic and the climate at a turning point, there are simply no excuses to keep using plastic bags. Enough is enough."

International Plastic Bag Free Day, celebrated around the World on July 3rd, is a unique occasion for our organisations and the whole Break Free From Plastic movement to spread the word that a plastic-bag-free world is possible, where sound environmental alternatives to single-use plastic bags are used and reused.