Estonia to Ban Free Plastic Bags

Iconic symbol of our throw-away society, single use plastic bags have numerous adverse effects on the environment. A major source of pollution of the marine environment with potential effects on human health, single-use plastic bags are often only used for a few minutes, the ministry said.

Therefore, the EU directive sets forth measures to reduce the use of lightweight plastic carrier bags. As one option, handouts of free lightweight plastic bags, which at present make up 97% of the plastic bags handed out in stores, must be ended by 2019 at the latest.

The purpose of the ban is to avoid a situation where the consumer can take lightweight plastic carrier bags for free to substitute for a carrier bag.  

In addition the consumption of plastic bags per person must be cut to 90 bags per year by the end of 2019. Surveys carried out by the ministry and the Estonian association of retailers indicate that Estonian residents consume 40 plastic bags and about 165 extra lightweight plastic bags on the average per year.

The new legislation would establish a minimum price for plastic bags at a level significantly higher than now. This measure is aimed at encouraging people to use a multiple use carrier bag made from fabric instead, authors of the legislation say.

With the measure, the selling price of plastic carrier bags would be raised to the range from 30 cents to 1 euro, compared with 15 cents on the average now. Considering that the average price of bags made from fabric at retail outlets now is 0.75 euros, this is expected to make consumers opt for the latter as a more durable and less expensive alternative.


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