Birds and other wildlife are one step closer to being protected from the deadly litter of discarded plastic bags. On 16 April, members of the European Parliament passed a draft law calling on EU countries to halve their consumption of bags thinner than 50 microns in the next three years, and by 80 per cent by 2019.

European citizens discard eight billion plastic bags every year, despite many owning a ‘bag for life’.

Each bag is kept for an average of 20 minutes but once in landfill, takes up to 1,000 years to decompose.

The environmental cost is far-reaching. Animals become ensnared in bags or mistake them for food. Plastic cannot be digested, obstructs the stomach lining and can block the œsophagus, causing a slow and painful death.

The Republic of Ireland was the first European country to start charging for plastic bags in 2002, reducing their consumption by 95 per cent. Since then Wales and five other European countries have followed suit.

Italy was the first EU country to ban the sale of non-biodegradable plastic bags last year. Somalia and Rwanda impose a total ban.

Lydia James