Have you heard about the plastic bag law in Cyprus? On 1 July the shops in Cyprus will stop giving away free plastic bags for customers to put their purchases in. On that day every supermarket, kiosk, food shop and takeaway will charge 5.95c per bag. That, at least, is what the Cyprus government says will happen, for that is what it has promised the European Commission, as required by its Plastic Bags Directive 2015/720 which became European law more than three years ago. That is what should have already happened on 1 January this year but was postponed to allow “more time” for Cyprus to get used to the idea. That is what has happened in every other country in the European Union after the EC threatened a year ago to start legal proceedings against the four countries which had not even begun to plan for the change – Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Poland. It had the desired effect. Greece, for example, started charging 4c per bag on 1 January this year, resulting in an 80% reduction in single-use plastic bags, and a 5000% increase in sales of reusable bags (which are much less harmful to the environment). Italy introduced the charge for plastic bags on 1 January and went even further by banning the sale of non-biodegradable bags, which although more expensive are said by some to be less damaging to the environment.
But will it happen in Cyprus, one week from now? Most supermarkets had no information about it on display at the checkouts, and no reusable bags on sale. Some also did not have any information displayed, although they were selling reusable bags. Of five ‘Bio Shops’ visited, none were offering paper (biodegradable) bags, and there was no information about the new law on display. However, Athienitis deserves praise for already charging 2c for single-use bags, set to increase to 5c on 1 July, and Lidl has never given free bags to its customers. As for the countless smaller shops, will they not continue to offer their regular customers free plastic bags as usual? Only time will tell.
Charalampos Theopemptou, Green MP for Nicosia, is seriously concerned about the lack of information. “We should be seeing TV ads, newspaper ads, signs up in shops and supermarkets, and projects in schools,” he said. He also called for alternative solutions such as cloth bags for weighing fruit and vegetables, since these are both biodegradable and last a very long time. (No supermarket in Cyprus is selling these bags yet, although they can be ordered here from our online Eco Shop).
- The new law applies to plastic between 15 and 50microns thick (nearly all bags) available at the checkout; it does not apply to the bags which are used for weighing out fruit and vegetables, (though many people say paper bags should be used for this purpose). As paper is a more environmentally friendly option, it will still result in waste. The best option for packaging fruits and vegetables are reusable produce bags. Click here to order yours from our online Eco Shop.
- Meat and fish will probably always need to be sold in plastic bags, for hygiene reasons. Solution? Bring your own tupperware when buying your fresh meat and fish.
- It is intended that the profits from selling the bags (5c + VAT each) should go into a special fund so that the money can be used for charitable purposes. However, it seems that no supermarket chain has set this up yet.
- The EU will require member states to provide figures for how many plastic bags the average person uses in a year, to show how their use declines. In most countries, about 80% fewer plastic bags are used once people have to pay for them, so it has proved to be successful.
- The public has been hugely positive in countries where these measures have been adopted.
- It’s not just Europe. Many countries you would not expect are much more severe. Kenya, for example, has brought in a law banning the sale of all plastic bags, with heavy fines for using them. India has announced that it will achieve zero use of plastic bags by 2022.”