Plastic Bags charges, taxes and bans – List by Countries / June 4, 2017

The tip of an iceberg by Jorge Gamboa

An island the size of Texas is forming in the Central Pacific Ocean……an island made entirely of discarded plastic debris.

Cities and countries are taking action against the scourge of plastic bags. Below are just some of the countries with bans or charges already in place or pending. This is in no way a complete list however it does illustrate the global support being garnered against the effects and damage done by the sheer volume of plastic that is clogging our planet every year.

African countries. Widespread bans and charges exist on plastic bags across Africa. South Africa, Uganda, Somalia, Rwanda Botswana, Kenya & Ethiopia all have total bans in place.

Australia Although the nation does not ban lightweight bags, the states of South Australia and North Territory along with some cities have independently banned the bag. Coles Bay, Tasmania was the first location in Australia to ban the bag. The introduction of the ‘Zero Waste’ program in South Australia led to its lightweight bag ban in October 2008. It is estimated that 400 million bags are saved each year.

Bangladesh introduced a strict ban in 2002 after the occurrence of floods from 1988 to 1998 that submerged two-thirds of the country in water. The cause was from littered plastic bags. A prinicpal engineer said due to the change in plastic bag usage, Dahka will be a ‘flood free zone’ in ten years.

Belgium A plastic bag tax was adopted across Belgium in 2007.

Brazil imposed bans on plastic bags effective in October 2007.

China has total bans in effect regards plastic bags since June 1st 2008.

Denmark In 2003, Denmark introduced a tax to retailers for giving out plastic bags. This encouraged stores to charge for plastic bags and pushed the use of reusable bags. It was thought that this saved about 66% of plastic and paper bags.

England Since October 5th 2015, an official bag charge is now in place agreed upon by the government and applies only to all companies with 250+ employees. Government pressure is leaning on all smaller companies to adopt this charge however no legal requirements exist as yet to make this compulsory. Recent figures have reported England’s annual use of plastic bags to be approx seven billion every year. That’s a lot of 5p’s !!

France After pressure from shoppers, the biggest supermarkets in France imposed a ban on free carriers. They now charge between 2p and 42p for reusable bags. This has removed millions of free bags from high streets. The city of Paris adopted a full ban, effective January 2007.

Germany All stores in Germany that provide plastic bags must pay a recycling tax.

Hong Kong forbids retailers from giving plastic bags under a certain thickness and for free. A $50 cents plastic bag levy was implemented on 1 April 2015 across Hong Kong. The use of plastic bags dropped 90% after the introduction of the levy. Signs show that Hong Kong is phasing out the use of plastic bags at a dramatic rate.

India. In 2002, India banned the production of plastic bags below 20µm in thickness to prevent plastic bags from clogging of the municipal drainage systems and to prevent the cows of India ingesting plastic bags as they confuse it for food. However, enforcement remains a problem.

The MOEF has also passed regulation to ban all polythene bags less than 50 microns on 18 March 2016. Due to poor implementation of this regulation, regional authorities (states and municipal corporations), have had to implement their own regulation.

In 2016, Sikkim, India’s first fully organic state, banned the use of not only packaged drinking water bottles in any government meetings or functions but also food containers made from polystyrene foam all over the state.

Himachal Pradesh was the first state to ban plastic bags less than 30µm. The Karnataka state became first state to ban all forms of plastic carry bags, plastic banners, plastic buntings, flex, plastic flags, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic spoons, cling films and plastic sheets for spreading on dining tables irrespective of thickness including the above items made of thermacol and plastic which uses plastic micro beads. The state of Goa has banned bags up to 40µm thick, while the city of Mumbai bans bags below a minimum thickness to 50µm

Indonesia. Starting in 2016, Environment Ministry enforced retailers in 23 cities across the archipelago (mini-market, hypermarket, and supermarket) to charge consumers for plastic bags between Rp.200 and Rp.5,000 for each bag including degradable plastic bags. And money which came from tax are used by retailers as public funds for waste management alongside non-governmental organizations.

Ireland  The Republic of Ireland introduced a €0.15 tax in March 2002. Levied on consumers at the point of sale, this led to 90% of consumers using long-life bags within a year. The tax was increased to €0.22 in 2007. The revenue is put into an Environment Fund.

Italy In January 2011, Italy banned the distribution of plastic bags that are not from biodegradable sources.

Mexico Mexico now fines stores for giving plastic bags to their customers since August 2010. Plastic bags were one of Mexico’s biggest pollution problems.

Morocco. The country has totally banned the production and use of plastic bags in July 2016. The country was world’s second largest consumer of plastic bags after US, reports Al Jazeera.

Myanmar. In 2009, plastic bag factories in Rangoon were ordered by local authorities to stop production by the end of November or face heavy punishment, as the Burmese government looked to ban plastic bags. Rangoon was thus following in the footsteps of central Burma’s Mandalay and the new capital Naypyidaw, both of which had eliminated plastic bags.

Netherlands. The country implemented a comprehensive ban on free plastic shopping bags on January 1, 2016. The ban has a small number of exemptions for unpacked food products which are exposed to possible contamination, such as fresh fruit. The target price for a plastic bag is €0.25

Romania. A law was introduced in 2006 (law 578/2006) – and was later modified in 2011 (law 1032/2011) – that puts a mandatory tax on non-biodegradable plastic bags. The modification in 2011 reduced the tax on plastic bags and was regarded by some as a step backwards from environmental protection.

Scotland. A five pence minimum charge for single-use carrier bags came into force in Scotland on 20 October 2014. The proceeds of the charge can be used by the retailers as they see fit. VAT will be collected by the government on every bag sold, although retailers are encouraged to pledge to donate proceeds to “good causes”. The charge is not exclusive to plastic bags, and includes those which are biodegradable. Bags for unpackaged food, loose seeds, soil-contaminated goods, axes, knives or blades; drugs or medical appliances; small packaged uncooked fish, meat or poultry; aquatic animals; purchases made in aerodrome security restricted areas; or goods bought on board a ship, train, aircraft, coach or bus will be exempt from the charge

Switzerland. In 2016, the two largest chains of supermarkets in Switzerland, the Federation of Migros Cooperatives and Coop, announced that they will progressively stop to distribute free plastic bags (at the check-out). Both distributors announced that they will not make money with paid bags, but that profits from their sale will be invested in environmental projects.

Migros preciously tested the measure in the Canton of Vaud since 2013: they reduced the number of plastic bags distributed by ninety percent (and saved 100,000 francs per year). Migros will be the first to introduce the measure across the country, on 1 November 2016 (the bags will be made with recycled plastic and cost 0.05 Swiss francs each). Coop plans to introduce this in 2017

Tunisia. The country introduced a ban on plastic bag distribution in supermarkets starting from 1 March 2017. An agreement was signed between the Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment and large supermarket chains in the country to enact the first phase of a process aiming to reduce the consumption of plastic bags. Tunisian activists are planning awareness campaigns to establish greener policies in the country.

United States of America As of July 2013, 17 states and 98 cities & county’s across the U.S. had either bans in place or pending. As of July 2014, that number had grown to 20 states and 132 cities meaning some 20 million U.S citizens are now living in an area where plastic bags are banned. The U.S alone uses 12 million barrels of oil every year to meet plastic bag demand. Every year in the U.S one hundred billion plastic bags are discarded.

Wales  Since 1 October 2011, there has been a minimum charge of 5p on all plastic bags (including paper bags). The charge was introduced to dramatically reduce the number of carrier bags used in Wales. The charge affects all retailers in Wales. By July 2012, evidence showed the number of plastic bags given away by shops had fallen by up to 96%.

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