Retailers plan 20-cent charge on plastic bags

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.

Retailers plan 20-cent charge on plastic bags
A plastic bag drifts above a coral reef in the Red Sea. Photo: DPA

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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Amazon workers across Germany go on strike for higher wages in build up to ‘online Xmas’

Employees of the online retailer Amazon have downed their tools at several locations across Germany in a protest against precarious wages, but the online shopping giant insists that the strike won’t impact Christmas deliveries.

Amazon workers across Germany go on strike for higher wages in build up to 'online Xmas'
Photo: DPA

In Bad Hersfeld, in the central state of Hesse, employees at an Amazon logistics centre started their strike early on Monday morning. A spokeswoman for the Verdi trade union said they expected about 500 workers at the retail company to take part. 

In Rheinberg and Werne in North Rhine-Westphalia, the strike began shortly before midnight on Sunday evening, with some 500 workers taking part and further 300 workers in the town of Werne joining in.

The union action has hit six locations across the country in total and strike action is set to last until Christmas Eve.

The trade union Verdi had called for strikes at various locations as it sought to push Amazon into recognition of the collective agreements which are commonly established established between trade unions and employer associations in Germany.

“Last week's closure of on-site retail has once again significantly increased the volume of orders placed with mail-order companies such as Amazon,” Verdi said in a statement.

“While the corporation continues to increase its billions in profits, it refuses to pay employees according to collective bargaining agreements. These are minimum conditions,” the union added.

A Verdi spokesman added that Amazon was earning “a golden profit” while workers' health suffered under the stress of delivering packages on time during the pandemic.

Additionally, the trade union said it wanted to push for better health and safety at the workplace in Amazon logistics centres. 

Amazon has always resisted joining in such agreements, claiming that it offers good wages outside of the traditional trade union structures.

Amazon said Monday that its employees already benefit from “excellent wages, excellent fringe benefits and excellent career opportunities.” 

The US-based firm also said that it made health and well-being at work a top priority. 

The company insisted that the strikes would have no impact on customer deliveries in the run up to Christmas, stating that the vast majority of employees work as normal.