The European Union has approved new rules that clamps down on the use of flimsy plastic bags that are hazardous for the environment.

The 28 member nations on Monday gave final approval to the rules that mean consumers may be obliged to use sturdier, re-usable bags or face extra charges.

Member states are required to reduce the use of such plastic bags by 80 percent by 2025, but are given a choice on how to achieve that target.

Danish Green MEP Margrete Auken pushed the legislation through parliament and called the approval "a historic breakthrough in tackling the pervasive problem of plastic waste." It marks the first time there are EU-wide binding measures on the issue.

Five years ago, every EU citizen used an average of 198 such bags.