Since the beginning of 2016 it is official: free plastic bags are banned in the Netherlands. Finally! It is an important step to reduce the waste of plastics in the EU and to minimize environmental pollution in the oceans. But to be honest, it takes some time getting used to it. Not only at supermarkets but also at stores like HEMA or H&M bags are not free of charge anymore.
In the EU, a person uses on average 176 plastic bags a year. And often those are used only once. A debacle for the environment in general and particularly for rivers, lakes and oceans, as most of the waste produced by plastic bags evidently ends up here. Since the decomposition of plastics takes several decades, it causes a severe and all-embracing pollution of our environment. Something that the EU also acknowledges now. Last year the EU members agreed on reducing the plastic bag usage by 50% to 90 bags per person a year by 2019. How EU members plan to reach this goal is not set. The Netherlands decided to set up a plastic bag tax and to force stores to charge customers for plastics bags. However, how much they charge is up to the individual stores. While some stores charge the customers up to 25 cents, big players like H&M only ask for 10 cents per bag. Yet, whether it is only 10 or 25 cents, it at least makes the customer think twice to take a bag.
In Germany, where the plastic bag ban was introduced in 2015, it is already common thing: people bring bring used plastic bags with them, have re-usable bags or carry cotton bags in the supermarkets. Sure, it takes some time to get used to remember to take a cotton bag with you when going shopping in the city. Particularly at a quick shopping tour or a spontaneously stop by at HEMA you often forget to take a bag with you. Often those bags are too big for always carrying them around. But the industry is creative and it is developing more and more bags that are possible to squeeze to a very small size.
Lately, also more and more documentaries discuss the harmful impacts of plastic bags. We particularly can recommend ‘Bag It!’ by Suzan Beraza!.The documentary portraits an average American guy who makes his very own resolution to stop using plastic bags. Thereby, the film comes up with interesting and important suggestions on how we can change our habits and to reduce the plastic waste that everyone of us produces.
The introduction of a tax on plastic bags is an important first step to change customers habits and to raise awareness. It is a first step on a long journey.
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