Retailers plan 20-cent charge on plastic bags

Retailers plan 20-cent charge on plastic bags
A plastic bag drifts above a coral reef in the Red Sea. Photo: DPA
Forgetting your own bag when you head to the supermarket could become much more expensive from April 2016, as retailers have suggested that ordinary plastic bags should cost 20 cents each in advice to the government.

An Environment Ministry spokesman told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday that they were grateful for the advice, which comes after Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks threatened to introduce a law if the industry introduces its own charge for the bags.

The government's goal – under an EU-wide target – is to reduce annual plastic bag usage to 40 bags from the current 71 per person by 2025, the spokesman said.

But the Retailers' Association's (HDE) recommendations will not be binding and it will be up to every company how much they charge.

Ahead of the curve

At 71 bags each per year, Germans already use fewer than the EU target of 90.

The HDE argues that this means there's no hurry to introduce new rules, especially because plastic bags used in Germany rarely end up in the ocean, where they cause the most harm to animals and the environment.

But environmental groups say that introducing the charge could push usage yet further down, as has happened in Ireland, Denmark and Finland since they introduced a charge.

Ireland saw a 95 percent reduction in plastic bag usage after introducing a 22-cent charge.

The UK also recently introduced a five pence charge on plastic bags, which appears to have gone smoothly despite media predictions of 'chaos' at supermarkets.

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