The European plastics industry has expressed concerns over plans to limit the use of plastic bags across the European Union, suggesting that the move might have a negative impact on trade in packaged goods in Europe.

Last week the European Parliament and the European Council agreed on legislation that requires member states to reduce the use of plastic bags. The law will apply only to bags with a thickness below 0.05mm, because they are less reusable than thicker, stronger plastic bags and turn into waste more quickly, EurActiv reported.

If the proposed rules come into force, member states can choose to introduce a complete ban on lightweight plastic bags. Countries would be able to choose between two policy options: to either take measures to ensure that average yearly consumption of the commonest and most polluting plastic carrier bags does not exceed 90 bags per citizen by 2019 and 40 by 2025, or alternatively, ensure that by 2018 they are not handed to shoppers free of charge.

Some jurisdictions, including Ireland and Denmark, have already introduced a fee or tax for plastic carrier bags.

Trade association PlasticsEurope said that while the industry supports a mandatory charge on all bags — regardless of which material they are made from — it "fears that the possibility for member states to ban lightweight plastic bags sets a precedent which will lead to a patchwork of national regulations on other types of packaging as well, thereby creating trade barriers and hindering the E.U. internal market."

Karl-H. Foerster, executive director of PlasticsEurope, argued that a mandatory charge helps raise consumer awareness of the value of the resources that are used to produce each bag and has been proved to be an effective tool in reducing the over-consumption of lightweight plastic bags.

As part of the efforts to cut down on plastic waste in the environment, the European Commission will also be evaluating biodegradable plastics. This was welcomed by the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association, which stressed that the study should include all types of biodegradable plastics and not just oxo-biodegradable.