Plastic carrier bags
Federal Law amending the Waste Management Act 2002 [Abfallwirtschaftsgesetz] (AWG Legal Consolidation Amendment 2019)
Based on European stipulations such as the Circular Economy Package and the Plastics Strategy, Member States are called upon to take measures against the generation of plastic waste and its distribution in the environment. Directive (EU) 2015/720 amending Directive 94/62/EC as regards reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags, OJ L 115, 6.5.2015, p. 11, needs transposing in Austria, which will be done by means of this provision. This should also remove any doubt as regards its full implementation (see Infringement Procedure No 2019/0101).
In order to continually reduce the average use of lightweight plastic carrier bags, Member States should take measures to significantly reduce the use of lightweight plastic carrier bags in line with the general objectives of EU waste policy and the waste hierarchy within the meaning of Directive 2008/98/EC on waste, OJ L 312, 22.11.2008, p. 3 (‘Waste Framework Directive’). By way of deviation from Article 18 of Directive 94/62/EC, Member States may also impose market restrictions, including bans, provided these restrictions are proportionate and non-discriminatory.
In Austria, a voluntary agreement with selected commercial enterprises for plastic carrier bags has already existed since 2016, where carrier bags (not only plastic ones) are only provided for a fee in order to achieve a noticeable reduction alongside other measures. Important initial reductions have already been achieved with this voluntary agreement. However, only with a ban can the goal of large-scale prevention in line with the Waste Framework Directive and the Packaging Directive be sufficiently taken into account.
Apart from reusable bags made from woven plastic, there is only one carefully defined exception to this ban. Only very lightweight plastic carrier bags that are made from renewable bioresources and are suitable for domestic composting (home composting) in accordance with current technical standards are excluded. The requirement for this exemption can also be justified by years of experience with domestic composting.
Compost is a very important resource and is being contaminated by plastic more and more in recent years. Plastic carrier bags, particularly tie-handle bags (vegetable bags) are a big problem in composting plants. The ban on this plastic tie-handle bag is an essential measure to allow for the production of high-quality compost. Without this ban, biodegradeable and non-biodegradeable carrier bags would continue to be undesirably mixed in bins for organic waste.
The ‘OK compost home’ standard, issued by TÜV Austria, is currently considered the most up-to-date technical standard. This standard can be met by many providers throughout Europe and therefore is to be considered non-discriminatory. As soon as a standard is laid down at European level, it will be applied as the most up-to-date technical standard.