Posted on 03 July 2020
1 million plastic bags are in used around the world every minute.
“If the world does not stop production altogether, in 30 years' time the weight of plastic bags thrown into the seas and oceans will exceed that of all creatures living in them.” – Zero Waste Europe
Plastic Bag Free Day is a global initiative that aims to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags in the world.
- Plastic bags were first introduced in 1965;
- On average, plastic bags are used for 25 minutes;
- Yet, it takes between 100 to 500 years for a plastic bag to disintegrate (depending on the type of plastic);
- 1 million plastic bags are in used around the world every minute;
- The average European uses about 500 plastic bags per year (zero-waste Europe). Yet Europeans overwhelmingly support a ban on single-use plastic bags;
- 80% of marine litter is plastic; and
- 3.4 million tonnes of plastic carrier bags are produced in the EU every year. This corresponds to the weight of more than two million cars!
Single-use plastic bags are:
Measures to phase out single-use plastic bags:
- BAD FOR THE PLANET: They take 100s of years to degrade and they not only pollute the environment but actually directly harm many living organisms
- BADLY DESIGNED: It doesn’t make sense to produce something that lasts 100s of years when it is going to be used for a few minutes. It is a contradiction that in a throw-away society nothing good lasts whilst bad products are forever.
- UGLY: Reusable bags are a lot cooler!
- EXPENSIVE: Producers don’t take responsibility for the impact of their product. Plastic bags are cheap to produce but very expensive to clean from the environment.
- BAD FOR YOUR MIND: They embody the message of the throw-away society that is trashing the planet.
- UNFAIR: Future generations will suffer from the pollution caused by plastic bags, without getting any of the benefit. Future generations don’t vote, but they count.
- 92% OF THE 95,5 BILLION carrier bags in the EU in 2010 were single-use
- MADE OF CRUDE OIL e.g. finite resource
- GET INTO THE FOOD CHAIN: in the form of pulverised plastic waste in the sea gets into the food chain
In order to limit the amount of single use plastic bags, some countries are opting for bans, taxation or different forms of voluntary agreements. Banning plastic bags is most effective in cases when they pose an imminent and clear threat, however, bans depend on strong law enforcement capacity. Italy, Rwanda and Bangladesh have introduced bans. For example, after a seven years’ ban, the consumption of plastic bags in Italy fell by more than 50%, while previously Italians ranked among the biggest consumers of plastic bags in Europe. In Ireland, first country that introduced a tax on plastic bags back in 2002 (of €0,15 and then €0,22), the use of plastic bags has dropped by 90%.
, a tax on plastic bags was put in place in 2012. There were discussions in 2017 about drastically increasing the environmental tax on lightweight plastic bags in supermarkets but no change in the law has been made yet. Then on May 13, 2020 Greenpeace and other NGOs celebrated victory when the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (ITM) submitted a bill on banning disposable plastic bags in Hungary, in line with an EU regulation only to have Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén withdraw the bill six days later
on behalf of the Hungarian Government instead of submitting it to Parliament. The bill would have banned the use of disposable plastics as well as the light and very lightweight plastic bags such as nylon and plastic bags for vegetables and pastries in supermarkets, including biodegradable plastics in Hungary from January 1, 2021.
, a tax on disposable plastic bags has been in place since March 2017. The prices range between €0,03 and €0,09 per bag. Retailers have the obligation to keep a record of the bags sold until 2019.
there is an eco-tax of 0,2 RON (€0.04) imposed on producers and importers of non-biodegradable bags – the idea is that producers and retailers can then make this tax be paid by consumers to encourage them to use less plastic bags. Also, from 1 July 2018 it is forbidden to introduce lightweight carrier and very lightweight plastic bags (under 50 microns) on the market.
was one of the first EU member states to introduce a tax on plastic bags in October 2012. Bulgaria imposed an ecotax on any bags made of polyethylene with a thickness of up to 25 microns and size smaller than 390/490mm, which are defined as single-use bags under Bulgarian legislation. The tax on polyethylene bags increased to 35 stotinki in 2012, 45 stotinki in 2013, and 55 stotinki (about €0,28) in 2014. Retailers cannot give bags between 25 and 50 microns for free, but no fee has been set.
From 2021, the European Union will ban easily and cheaply replaceable disposable plastics such as plastic earplugs, cutlery, plates, straws, drink mixers, and balloon sticks.
- Just say no – even if it is “free;”
For more information:
Ban the Bag initiative
- Bring your own bags;
- Reuse a strong plastic bag or container;
- Clothe bags – sew your own or buy one from an NGO you support, like WWF;
- reusable clothe bags for fruit and veg now widely available from small producers and large retailers alike;
- Weighing your fruit and veg at a shop – just put the price sticker right on the product, bag-free;
- Bring a woven or clothe basket;
- Cardboard boxes and collapsible crates;
- Don’t have any of these options? Make your own, and maybe decorate them with your kids or grandkids as a crafts project; or ask for these items for Christmas or your birthday;
- Shop at a packaging free/zero-waste shop where you can buy bulk using your own reusable containers and bags; and
- Go full out and either grow your own/bake your own, or subscribe to a local organic vegetable box scheme
by Surfrider Foundation