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MEP Higgins Calls for Review of Plastic Bag Materials to Protect Marine Environment

17th April 2014
MEP Higgins Calls for Review of Plastic Bag Materials to Protect Marine Environment

The EU should review the materials used in plastic bag manufacture and encourage greater usage of biodegradable carrier bags to prevent further marine environmental damage, according to Jim Higgins MEP, following a vote by the European Parliament on the issue this week.

This week, MEPs backed ambitious targets which will oblige Member States to reduce their use of light plastic bags, first by half, and then up to 80 per cent as compared to the average EU consumption in 2010 within at least 5 years.

This is good news for the marine environment according to MEP Higgins: "60-80 per cent of all marine litter is plastic material, scattered across all the world's oceans. The seabed closest to coastal regions can be most contaminated, especially with debris from carrier bags.

"The sheer volume of plastic waste and its durability is causing havoc for marine life which gets entangled in it or ingests the debris. There is also some evidence to suggest that chemicals from the materials present a toxic hazard for marine life and seawater quality.

"The durability and hard-wearing nature of plastic that makes it so useful also makes it problematic for environmental reasons as it takes so long to degrade. While some initiatives to reduce our reliance on plastic and increase recycling are positive, such as the plastic bag charge and more reusable shopping bags, we need to review the actual materials being used by manufacturers," Mr Higgins continued.

"An in-depth study by the University of Plymouth on the degradation of plastic carrier bags in a realistic marine environment showed that compostable plastic disappeared between 16-24 weeks, whereas 98 per cent of all other plastic remained after 40 weeks. One possible remedy proposed by the scientists behind the study is increasing our use of biodegradable carrier bags."

The Midlands North West MEP highlighted a recent success story in Italy: "Thanks to the use of biodegradable-compostable bags combined with a restriction of other types of bags, Italy has halved its plastic bag consumption since 2011. This is a trend that could apply to the entire EU under the right conditions."

Published in Marine Wildlife Team

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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