EU member states could slash plastic bag use by 80 percent by charging for them or banning them altogether, the European Commission said on Monday.
Plastic shopping bags are one of the main causes of sea pollution.
The EU reckons eight billion of them end up as litter each year.
The European Commission, the EU executive, is proposing three possible ways for member states to cut their use: charges, national reduction targets, or an outright ban.
But biodegradable bags are not exempt, the European Commission says they should not be seen as an alternative to solving the problem of littering.
“Biodegradable plastic will only degrade in a reasonable time if disposed of and treated in appropriate conditions such as biological waste treatment facilities or industrial composting sites. Therefore, they do not constitute a solution to the problem of littering,” said Janez Potocnik, the EU Environment Commissioner.
Twelve EU countries, including the UK, have already taken steps to charge for bags.
Commission estimates say that each EU citizen uses an average of 175 non-reusable plastic bags a year.