The bag that is compliant
Regulations in the European Union
Today, the average EU citizen consumes 198 plastic carrier bags per year. After the Directive (EU) 2015/720 regarding the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags has been enacted, the national governments of the member states have introduced different regulations in their countries in order to reduce the consumption.
The Austrian federal government is seeking a complete ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags from January 1, 2020 on. The suggested legislation will be part of a larger action against plastic pollution, such as a ban on adding microplastics in cosmetics and to reduce plastic packaging by 25% by 2025.
In the Walloon region, a decree has been enacted which bans the use of plastic carrier bags since December 2016. Until December 2017, personalised printed plastic bags that are already on stock can be used. Until January 2019, plastic bags with a biosourced content of at least 40% are allowed for food packaging. In the Brussels region, a decree has been enacted which bans plastic carrier bags from September 2017 and ultralight plastic bags from September 2018. The Flemish region has not decided on a follow-up of the directive.
The Danish government will now prohibit thin, lightweight plastic carrier bags that are only rarely reused. The government wants to put a stop to thin lightweight plastic carrier bags customers receive in shops (e.g. for meat, fruit and vegetables or pizzas). Giving away carrier bags for free will also be banned, regardless of the material they are made of. This is part of the government's action plan against plastic pollution.
The Estonian Parliament adopted on March 21, 2017, the act on amendments to the Packaging Act which will restrict the use of plastic bags. Starting from 2019, handing out free larger plastic bags will be prohibited in stores. This concerns for example plastic bags handed out for purchases in large numbers during sales campaigns. Exemption are smaller lightweight plastic bags which can be used as primary packaging for loose food (e.g. meat or vegetables) or for hygiene purposes (e.g. milk in plastic packaging).
The Ministry of Environment in Finland has developed a “Green Deal agreement” in which the government and business sectors agree on the compliance with sustainability aspects. The first “Green Deal agreement” was employed with the Finnish Trade Association. Its aim is to reduce the consumption of plastic carrier bags.
Since 1 July 2016, single use lightweight (< 50 μm) plastic bags (no matter which kind of plastic) are forbidden at cashiers. Since 1 January 2017, single use lightweight (< 50 μm) plastic bags are also forbidden for the packing of goods at the point of sale (e.g. for fresh fruit, vegetables, cheeses, fish). However, lightweight plastic bags made of bio-plastics are allowed for this case.
A voluntary agreement between the German Federal Environment Ministry and the German Trade Association (HDE) was introduced on 1 July 2016. It involves a fee for carrier bags of five to 50 cents per bag – for larger and thicker bags, the fee is one euro.
Italy introduced a law in 2011 stating that single-use plastic shopping bags with thicknesses < 60 μm (100 μm for food-contact applications) distributed by retail stores must be made from biodegradable plastics, which are certified compostable according to EN 13432.
A mandatory fee of 0.25 euros per plastic bag has been introduced on 1 January 2016.
Starting from July 1, 2018, all plastic bags must be charged for. The exception are ultra-lightweight bags (less than 15 µm thickness) which are primarily used for packaging loose food products (necessary to prevent food waste). Also excluded are thicker bags (50 µm or larger thickness) with a recycled plastic content of at least 70% promoting the use of recycled plastic. From 2020 on, thicker bags (50 µm or larger thickness) must have a recycled plastic content of at least 50%.
A new regulation in Sweden (2016:1041) on plastic carrier bags states that businesses and operators who professionally provide plastic carrier bags to their consumers have an obligation to inform the environmental impact of plastic carrier bags. From 1 June 2017, they will need to inform consumers about the environmental impact of plastic carrier bags, the benefits of a reduced consumption of plastic carrier bags and measures that can be taken to reduce the consumption of plastic carrier bags. The information to consumers must contain all three parts.
On 5 October 2015, a mandatory fee for plastic carrier bags has been introduced in England applying to businesses with 250 or more employees. There are no requirements to pay for paper carrier bags. Wales introduced a mandatory fee in 2011 which includes paper carrier bags. Northern Ireland followed in 2013 and Scotland in 2014.