James Crisp. Freelance journalist in Brussels.

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Ex-Tory MP entangled in EU plastic bag lobbying row

Plastic bag_Picnik

A former Tory MP who is now working for a leading plastic manufacturer is facing claims the business is exploiting its employees’ links to the British Conservatives to block a ban on plastic bags at European Union level.

Margrete Auken, a Danish MEP pushing for a ban on oxo-biodegradable plastic bags, has accused Symphony Environmental Technologies of using its links to the UK Conservative-led government to orchestrate an EU blocking minority against her bag ban in the EU Council of Ministers.

Martin Callanan, the former Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group who lost his seat in May’s European elections, joined Symphony as a consultant on 5 November.

He joins Nirj Deva, a Tory MEP since 1999 who is also Symphony’s Chairman of the Board of Directors. Deva is not involved in the lobbying effort as EU parliamentary rules would forbid it.

The European Commission’s original 2013 legislation to reduce lightweight plastic bag consumption in the EU did not include an outright ban or mandatory pricing.

Auken introduced the ban on oxy-biodegradable bags, a type of plastic, as an amendment to the bill, which targets an 80% reduction in the use of lightweight plastic bags by 2019 and a consumer charge for their use.

Symphony board deputy chairman Michael Stephen, a former Tory MP, told EurActiv, “She’s shown her colours. We don’t think the European Parliament should choose people like her to be rapporteurs.”

“When we heard about this attack, [the ban] we had to defend ourselves,” Stephen, a former Westminster environmental committee member, told EurActiv.  “We asked our own government, the UK government, to look into the matter.”

Supporters of the technology say it is degradable, but critics argue it breaks down into harmful microplastics instead.

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This entry was posted on November 16, 2014 by in Environment, Journalism and tagged , , .

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