Do you know the regulations on plastic bags consumption in Europe?

First of all, before further inquiring about the different bags that exist in the market, I think it is important to know the current regulations on reducing plastic bags consumption. In this article I want to talk about the most relevant aspects of them, so that everyone can know the key points of the laws that currently affect us.

The regulations in force regarding plastic bags consumption are (as of 2/10/2018):


  • DIRECTIVE 94/62/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 December 1994 on packaging and packaging waste. (see below)
  • 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 light plastic bags. (see below)


There is a draft Royal Decree on the Reduction of Consumption of Plastic Bags and the creation of the Register of Producers of Products (REPP) of 25 July 2017 (see below), which as of 2/10/2018 is still pending approval by the Government of Spain.

 regional level 

Currently there are regulations at the regional level on plastic bags consumption. Some of them are.

  • Catalonia Law 5/2017. As of 3/31/2017, it prohibits free delivery of plastic bags at all points of sale (including those delivered at home).
  • Andalusia Law 11/2010. In 2011 a tax was created on single-use plastic bags, with a tax rate of € 0.05 per bag. It was established that this rate would increase to € 0.10 in successive years, but as of 2018 this increase is pending.
  • Cantabria Law 11/2010. From 1/01/2011, the Tax on single-use plastic bags was applied and, like Andalusia, it set a rate of € 0.05 per bag.
1) 94/62/EC (20/12/94) on packaging and packaging waste.

It is a European regulation, which was adopted to prevent or reduce the environmental impact of packaging and its waste. No specific provisions on the consumption of plastic bags were yet contemplated. However, thanks to it databases were created on the packaging and waste generated by each Member State, thus facilitating information on the magnitude and evolution of waste throughout all these years.

2) EU Directive 2015/720 (4/29/2015) on reducing the consumption of light plastic bags.

It is a modification of Directive 94/62/CE (1994), which includes specific sections for the reduction of “light plastic bags” (bags with a thickness of less than 50 microns ≈ 0.05 mm). However, “very light plastic bags” (with a thickness of less than 15 microns ≈ 0.015 mm) that are necessary for hygienic reasons or used as a container for food in bulk are excluded.

2.1. The measures taken by the Member States shall include at least one of the following:

a) Achieve an annual consumption level that does not exceed 90 light plastic bags per person as of December 31 2019, and 40 light plastic bags per person as of December 31 2025.

b) No later than December 31 2018, light plastic bags will not be delivered free of charge at points of sale of merchandise or products, unless equally effective instruments are applied.

2.2. Specific measures for biodegradable or compostable plastic bags.

Some plastic bags are labelled by their manufacturers as “oxo-biodegradable” or “oxo-degradable”. In these bags, conventional plastics include additives. Due to the presence of such additives, plastic fragments over time into small particles that remain in the environment, and that fish often confuse with plankton, so they end up in the food chain.

Therefore, it can be misleading to designate these bags as “biodegradable, since they may not be a solution to garbage dispersion but, on the contrary, increase contamination.

That is why, by 27 November 2018 at the latest, Member States will ensure that biodegradable or compostable plastic bags are labelled.

3) Draft Royal Decree on the Reduction of the Consumption of Plastic Bags and by which the REPP of 25 July 2017 is created.

As a result of the mandatory regulations included in the European Directive EU 2015/720, the Spanish Government was forced to elaborate in July 2017 a second draft to approve a Royal Decree on consumption reduction of light plastic bags.

This draft includes several regulations, of which the most appropriate are:

  1. From 1 March 2018:

a) Free delivery of plastic bags to consumers at points of sale is forbidden, except that they are made of compostable plastic or are very light plastic bags (in this last case when they are necessary for hygienic reasons or are used as a container for food in bulk).

b) Merchants will charge an amount for each plastic bag they provide to the consumer. To determine the price of plastic bags, traders can take as a reference the orientative prices set out in the following table.

< 15 MICRONS (*) 0,05€/bag
15<29 MICRONS 0,10€/bag
≥30 MICRONS 0,15€/bag

*intended for uses other than those indicated in “very light bags” in the previous section.

c) Likewise, merchants will inform consumers of the established prices, exposing them to the public in a visible place.

  1. From 1 January 2020:

a) It is forbidden to deliver light and very light plastic bags to the consumer at the points of sale, except if they are made of compostable plastic.

b) The delivery to the consumers of fragmentable plastic bags at the points of sale is prohibited

c) Plastic bags with a thickness equal to or greater than 50 microns shall contain a minimum percentage of 30% of recycled plastic.

*Of course, as already mentioned, it is important to notice that this draft has not yet been approved, so this regulation is not in force on 10/02/2018.

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