Representing the interests of plastics manufacturers, the lobby group Plastics Europe has complained to the European Commission and is trying to overturn an Italian government initiative that would reduce the amount of plastic bags entering the marine environment.

Representing the interests of plastics manufacturers, the lobby group Plastics Europe has complained to the European Commission and is trying to overturn an Italian government initiative that would reduce the amount of plastic bags entering the marine environment.

Since the start of this year, a nationwide ban on the use of non-biodegradable single-use plastic shopping bags has been in force across Italy. Plastics Europe is claiming that the ban is contrary to EU law.

However, there is an urgent need for action to prevent items such as plastic bags entering the marine environment.

Data taken from the International Bottom Trawl Survey and the Clean Seas Environmental Monitoring Programme suggests that plastic bags makes up 40% of all marine litter in the waters of the North East Atlantic.

The French research institute IFREMER found that in the Bay of Biscay most of the waste items found on the seabed were plastic (92%) and of those 94% were plastic bags.

Garbage patches have formed in and on oceans across the world, most notably the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, and in some parts of the world’s oceans scientists estimate that there is six times more plastic than plankton.

The consequences of this for the marine environment are varied - plastics are often ingested by animals who are then unable to feed properly and others get entangled and die - but there is also a staggering economic cost associated with the problem. For example, local authorities in the UK spend approximately €18 million on average removing beach litter each year.

Plastics Europe may be defending their members’ business interests but other than promoting plastic recycling best practices they are doing very little to tackle a problem that they are intimately associated with; a problem that is of concern to millions of EU citizens, and that threatens to overwhelm the marine environment.

Photograph by Henk Strietman


Plastics Europe position paper

click here

Information on plastic bags in the marine environment

Benthic marine litter collection between 1992 and 2008: Towards an assessment of marine litter that might cause harm to the marine environment

Marine litter in the North East Atlantic

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