Reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags in the EU
Existing European Union legislation on packaging waste does not contain specific measures for lightweight plastic carrier bags. These can have a harmful impact on the environment and their consumption needs to be reduced.
Directive (EU) 2015/720 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2015 amending Directive 94/62/EC as regards reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags
It amends Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste. It sets out ways and targets to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags, including imposing charges or setting national maximum consumption targets.
EU countries must take measures to reduce the consumption of lightweight* plastic carrier bags. These may include national reduction targets, restrictions on their use or financial measures such as charging for them.
The measures must include either one or both of the following:
1. defining a maximum annual consumption level of:
90 lightweight plastic carrier bags per person by the end of 2019 (a 50 % reduction compared to 2010) and
40 lightweight plastic carrier bags per person by the end of 2025 (an 80 % reduction compared to 2010)
2.ensuring that, by the end of 2018, lightweight plastic carrier bags are not provided free of charge at the point of sale of goods or products.
Very lightweight plastic carrier bags may be excluded from both the above measures.
From 27 May 2018, EU countries must report the annual consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags to the European Commission.
The Commission will work out details by May 2017 of labels or identification marks for biodegradable and compostable plastic carrier bags. These should be used at the latest 18 months after their adoption.
EU governments and the Commission will encourage public information and awareness campaigns, particularly in the 12 months from 27 November 2016.
Lightweight plastic carrier bag: wall thickness below 50 microns
Very lightweight plastic carrier bag: wall thickness below 15 microns, used for hygiene purposes or as primary packaging for loose food when this helps to prevent wastage.
Lightweight plastic carrier bags are a major source of litter, damage the environment and are an inefficient use of resources. Some EU countries have managed to significantly reduce their consumption: in the seven best performing ones, consumption levels are one-fifth the EU average.
For more information, see Packaging and Packaging Waste on the European Commission’s website.
Entry into force
Deadline for transposition in the Member States
Directive (EU) 2015/720
OJ L 115, 6.5.2015, pp. 11-15
European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC of 20 December 1994 on packaging and packaging waste (OJ L 365, 31.12.1994, pp. 10-23). See consolidated version.
Single-use plastics ban
Directive (EU) 2019/904 — on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment
It aims to prevent and reduce the impact on the environment of certain plastic products and to promote a transition to a circular economy by introducing a mix of measures tailored to the products covered by the directive, including an EU-wide ban on single-use plastic products whenever alternatives are available.
The directive delivers on the EU’s plastic strategy, an important element in the EU’s move towards a circular economy.
Single-use plastics are made wholly or partly of plastic and are typically intended to be used just once or for a short period of time before they are thrown away.
Market restrictions (bans)
The plastic products to be banned under the directive include:
cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks);
cotton bud sticks;
sticks to be attached to and to support balloons;
food containers made of expanded polystyrene;
products made from oxo-degradable plastic.
In line with the EU’s waste policy, EU countries are required to:
take measures to reduce the consumption of certain single-use plastics for which there is no alternative (drinking cups including covers and lids, and containers of prepared food for immediate consumption);
monitor consumption of these single-use products as well as the measures taken and report the progress made to the European Commission.
The directive requires an ambitious and sustained quantitative reduction in consumption of these products by 2026 (compared to a 2022 baseline).
Separate collection and design requirements for plastic bottles
The directive sets a collection target of 90% recycling for plastic bottles by 2029 (with an interim target of 77% by 2025).
These bottles should contain at least 25% recycled plastic in their manufacture by 2025 (for PET bottles), and 30% by 2030 (for all bottles).
Certain disposable plastic products placed on the market must carry a visible, clearly legible and indelible marking affixed to its packaging or to the product itself:
tobacco products with filters; and
These labels should inform consumers about:
appropriate waste management options for the product or what type of waste disposal should be avoided for the product; and
the presence of plastics in the product as well as the negative environmental impact of littering.
Extended producer responsibility
The directive incorporates the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Producers will have to cover the costs of:
waste management clean-up;
data-gathering; as well as
awareness raising for the following products:
food and beverage containers,
packets and wrappers,
light-weight carrier bags, and
tobacco products with filters.
For wet wipes and balloons, these obligations will apply with the exception of the collection costs.
EU countries are also required to:
ensure rules on extended producer responsibility (EPR) for fishing gear containing plastic are in place; and
monitor and assess plastic fishing gear with a view to establishing EU-wide collection targets.
EU countries must also take measures to:
inform consumers and to encourage responsible consumer behavior in order to reduce litter from such products;
make consumers aware of reusable alternative products and the impact of inappropriate disposal of single-use plastic waste on the sewage system.
It has to become law in the EU countries by 3 July 2021. The market restrictions and marking of product rules apply from 3 July 2021, while the product design requirements for bottles apply from 3 July 2024. The Extended producer responsibility measures apply from 31 December 2024.
For further information, see:
Waste (European Commission).
Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (OJ L 155, 12.6.2019, pp. 1-19)
Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain directives (OJ L 312, 22.11.2008, pp. 3-30)
Successive amendments to Directive 2008/98/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.
European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC of 20 December 1994 on packaging and packaging waste (OJ L 365, 31.12.1994, pp. 10-23)