From Sunday 1st July all plastic carrier bags provided in shops in Spain will carry an obligatory charge as a method of dissuading customers from using too many and dumping them, adding to the global plastic pollution problem.
Only thin bags used for loose-weighed fruit and vegetables and for fresh fish and meat will continue to be free in order to encourage consumption of fresh and locally-sourced produce, but all the others – including the smallest and most flimsy – will now carry a charge.
The most lightweight bags, fewer than 15 micrograms of plastic, are those used for fruit and fish and will not be charged for just yet, but any over 15 micrograms and under 50 will attract a recommended price of five cents, whilst thicker ones will cost up to 15 cents.
Bags over 50 micrograms of plastic normally carry a small charge anyway, since customers tend to use them more than once.
For these, if they are made up of at least 50% but less than 70% recycled plastic, the charge reduces to 10 cents.
From January 2020, so-called ‘fragmentable plastic’ bags will be banned altogether unless they are made from at least 50% recycled material.
All plastic bag manufacturers will be required to state how their carriers are made up.
Spain has managed to cut its carrier bag consumption by over half in the last decade, from 317 bags per inhabitant in 2007 to 144 in 2014, a number that continues to fall.
The charge means more and more consumers tend to bring their own, often opting for multi-use ‘bag-for-life’ type carriers for their shopping.
‘Green’ charity Amigos de la Tierra (‘Friends of the Earth’) has been campaigning for years for Spain to bin the plastic, albeit not literally, and has even criticised the use of bags made from biodegradable material as it ‘merely transfers the problem from one substance to another’.
For a while, Carrefour supermarkets in Spain sold carrier bags made from potato fibres, which break down much more quickly than plastic but has now returned to the old style.
In two days’ time, on Tuesday, a global campaign calling for the public to use ‘bag-for-life’ carriers will take place for International No Plastic Bags Day.