ACR+ member NABU, recently published an article on the issue of plastic bags in the German context.

Actually everything and enough has been said regarding plastic bags, but it all comes down to one fact: The plastic bag is avoidable.. For retailers, plastic bags are considered as free advertisement for their brand. Consumers can either have their own bag when shopping; or retailers should introduce reuse deposit schemes for bags. Plastic bags do not belong in nature, especially not in the water, but they are still found there, also in Germany. This is dangerous for animals because they mistake them for food as well as the ecosystem because of each bag becoming micro plastics at some point. Other materials such as paper are not more eco-friendly, and also cause major environmental problems during manufacture: such as when unsustainable harvested timber pulp is boiled off in a chemical bath with large energy inputs, which is then processed and finished with colorful, oil-based paints, coatings and adhesives for the bag.

Almost everyone agrees that it is possible to go shopping without plastic bags while at the same time using them anyway, yet; around 71 medium thick bags per person are handed out over counters in Germany per year. If there is a price put on the plastic bags, sales and production will go down. If the bag is more expensive (50 cents, 1 euro or more), it is no longer an attractive option for customers.

In 2014, the EU Commission, Parliament and Member States agreed to reduce the number of plastic bags within 11 years to a maximum of 40 pieces per person per year. How this is to be achieved in Germany is still currently under discussion. Apparently, not all those that flood us with disposable bags are willing to do something about it. Therefore, there is now an agreement between the Federal Environment Ministry and the largest retail trade association in Germany that only obliges one part of all retailers to sell bags in the future. Furthermore, the obligation applies only to plastic carrier bags. Currently, it looks as though a few large textile and electronics chains are following the trend set by supermarkets regarding charging for bags. Small traders, food stalls on the promenade, street market traders and pharmacies can continue to pass on their responsibility for the environment to the consumer. This is especially discouraging for those, who engage in eco-friendly solutions. This demonstrates the disappointing inability of the sector to take a united approach to this small act of environmental protection. A ban of one-way carrier bags is very unpopular amongst politicians in Germany although the EU Member States agreed to make such thing possible. The fear of losing elections because of being responsible for environmental policy instruments is huge.

It remains to be seen whether Federal Environment Minister Hendricks will launch an earmarked special levy or, at least to introduce a simple tax per disposable bag (for paper and plastic alike) which would ensure a fixed amount of duty, in order to accelerate the cultural change in the packaging of shopping and, in addition, to be able to use the obtained funds for waste prevention. Even the risk of being remembered as a "prohibition politician" in history books is small because actually everyone is in favor of plastic bag reduction.

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