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Politics Multiple Use

Politics Multiple Use Plastic Bags Single Use Plastic Carrier Bags Single and multiple use plastic carrier bags unsed per person in EU member States and EU-27 average (Source [12]) Estonia Hungary Lativa Lithuania Poland Portugal Slovakia Slovenia Czech Republic Romania Bulgaria Greece Italy EU-27 (average) UK Cyprus Spain Malta Sweden Belgium France Netherlands Germany Austria Ireland Luxembourg Denmark Finland 100 200 300 400 500 Benefits of biobased and biodegradable bags Biobased and biodegradable plastic bags offer different specific advantages [8]: The biobased content of bioplastic shopping bags ensures that they have a lower carbon footprint than oil-based bags, helping to reduce CO 2 emissions. In countries where organic waste is collected, compostable bags can be used to collect organic waste, in effect making it a dual use bag. Studies have shown that compostable biowaste bags help to increase the amount of biowaste collected and improve the quality of compost. Dual use also reduces the number of bags that are thrown away or end up in landfills. In countries where plastic waste is recovered for recycling, the bioplastic shopping bags can be mechanically recycled into new plastic products. This topic, however is rather complex and needs additional efforts as to source separation of the waste. Biobased (and non-biodegradable) plastics, such as 100% sugar cane based Polyethylene for example can be recycled together with traditional PE without any problems. In countries where waste is incinerated, the biobased content contributes to the generation of renewable energy. landfill is the least preferable end-of-life option. However, in case of biobased (and non-biodegradable) plastic shopping bags ending up in landfill, the biobased content will help to ‘sequester’ CO 2 . An important factor in this context is the fact, that a huge amount of marine litter in the oceans originates from landfills that are not closed or properly managed (see more details below) [9]. Some more background The properties that make plastic bags commercially successful – low weight and resistance to degradation – have also contributed to their proliferation in the environment. They escape waste management streams and accumulate in our environment, especially in the form of marine litter. Once discarded, plastic carrier bags can last for hundreds of years. Marine littering is increasingly recognised to be a major global challenge posing a threat to marine eco-systems and animals such as fish and birds. There is also evidence indicating large accumulation of litter in European seas [2]. In 2010, an estimated 98.6 billion plastic carrier bags were placed on the EU market, which amounts to every EU citizen using 198 plastic carrier bags per year. Out of these almost 100 billion bags, the vast majority are lightweight bags, which are less frequently re-used than thicker ones. Consumption figures vary greatly between Member States, with annual use per capita of lightweight plastic carrier bags ranging between an estimated 4 bags in Denmark and Finland and 466 bags in Poland, Portugal and Slovakia [2]. 48 bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/13] Vol. 8

Politics Doubtful figures However, looking at these figures a little more closely, some doubts arise about the accuracy of the data. Just a few exemplary figures to circumstantiate these doubts: The people in Denmark for example need 75 heavy multiple use bags and 4 single use bags per person per year… while the people in Germany use 64 single use bags and 7 multiple use? In Ireland on the other hand, people carry home their purchases of a whole year in 18 single use bags and 2 multiple use bags? Seems that the Irish still use a lot of shopping baskets. And in Bulgaria – the opposite. Here people seem to need about 250 single use plus 150 multiple use bags – Wow! In addition to the figures above, the EC (in an Impact Assessment paper [12] for the proposal) mention a total of 1.6 to 1.8 million tonnes of plastic being converted into carrier bags each year in the European Union. EuPC (the association of the European Plastics Converters) however state that this figure is still far too high (in 2008 the EC hat estimated a total of 3.4 million tonnes). EuPC estimate a total market volume in Europa of about 800,000 tonnes. The biggest mistake in the proposal is — according to a press release of EuPC [13] — the statement, “that in the case of a ban on plastic carrier bags, 147.6 Million t of CO 2 emissions would be saved. In reality, the correct emissions savings would be 1.44 Million tonnes and not a factor 100 times higher, as stated in the Commission’s proposal”. As a matter of fact, and Commissioner Potočnik admitted this recently, it seems that good and reliable data is simply not available — or the available data is being evaluated and compared without a common background and thus like comparing apples and pears. After all – littering is a behavioural question At the end of the day — Littering is not a product-intrinsic problem of shopping bags. It is caused by careless or thoughtless disposal behaviour on the part of consumers. In order not to encourage this behaviour, bioplastic producers, retailers and brandowners should refrain from advertising biodegradability and compostability of bioplastics bags as a solution to littering. However, all products should inform the consumer about their useful end-of-life options [8, 10]. On the other hand UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) published findings that only 20% of the garbage patch in the pacific is created by direct littering by man — the other 80% are said to origin from open and improperly managed landfills. The plastic bags find their way to the sea on indirect ways, e.g. by wind, animals etc. [9]. References [1] Proposal to reduce plastic bag consumption, European Commission, tp:// e/ packaging/legis.htm#plastic_bags (accessed Nov. 6th, 2013) [2] Environment: Commission proposes to reduce the use of plastic bags, Press release by the European Commission, 4 Nov 2103, 1017_en.htm (accessed Nov. 6th, 2013) [3] Potočnik, J.: Questions and answers on the proposal to reduce the consumption of plastic bags, Memo related to the proposal [1], 04 Nov 2013, press-release_MEMO-13-945_de.htm (accessed Nov. 6th, 2013) [4] N.N.: Press release of European Bioplastics, 04 Nov 2013, uploads/2013/11/EuBP_statement_EC_bags_ proposal_131104.pdf (accessed Nov. 6th, 2013) [5] personal conversation, November, 2013 [6] EU Directive on the use of plastic bags: important recognition for Italy, Press release of Assobioplastiche, Rome, Italy, 06 November 2013 [7] N.N. Press release of IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e. V., Nov. 6, 2013 php?id=5337&langfront=en (accessed Nov. 13th, 2013) [8] Plastic shopping bags, Position of European Bioplastics, Plastic_shopping_bags.pdf (accessed Nov. 6th, 2013) [9] [10] Bioplastic carrier bags – a step forward, Fact Sheet of European Bioplastics http://en.european-bioplastics. org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/EuBP_FS_shopping_ bags_2013.pdf (accessed Nov. 6th, 2013) The full text of the Proposal can be downloaded here: [11] proposal_plastic_bag.pdf (accessed Nov. 6th, 2013) [12] Impact Assessment for a Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags packaging/pdf/swd_plastic_bag.pdf (accessed Nov. 17th, 2013) [13] EuPC criticises contents of Commission’s plastic carrier bags proposal; Press release EuPC, Nov. 6, 2013; response%20to%20Commission%20bags%20proposal.pdf (accessed Nov. 6th, 2013) Most of these sources can be downloaded from bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/13] Vol. 8 49

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