The Malta Independent 18 October 2021, Monday

Is This the end of conventional plastic bags?

Malta Independent Thursday, 1 January 2009, 00:00 Last update: about 9 years ago

Shopping bags which were given for free at supermarket or grocery tills will be diminishing and when current stocks finish, they will only be found on shop shelves and are to be bought as any other item, according to Vince Farrugia, director general at the Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises.

Shopping carrier bags will be punched into to the bill as an item with the aim of eliminating the use of conventional bags. As yet though, there seems to be no proposed incentive or guidelines to retailers to encourage the use of less harmful material.

A common misconception between both the retail community and consumers is that the 15 cent eco-contribution measure announced in the budget for 2009 will be introduced as from 1 January. Along the New Year countdown days, a number of groceries were putting up signs that consumers will be charged e0.15 per bag as from 1 January even though they had not received any formal instruction from the government. “Lidl stores were charging for shopping bags before the end of the year,” Mr Farrugia said.

However, Dr Christopher Ciantar, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs explained that the Ministry is currently concluding a draft legal notice which will be presented for consultation in the first two weeks of January. Ideally, the final legal notice will be issued in February but as yet there is no set date when this will come in action as the consultation process must take its course.

Before the legal notice is issued, the government will not be collecting the eco-contribution as proposed in Budget 2009 as the speech itself did not specify the date when the new measure will come into practice.

“The government’s main aim is to encourage consumers to take their shopping bags with them to the supermarkets or grocery stores,” Dr Ciantar said. Although the government had introduced an eco-contribution of Lm0.06 (e0.139) back in 2006, soon enough shoppers and sales people stopped being careful and not wasting plastic bags. Currently most shop assistants simply put groceries in a plastic carrier bag even if the shopping included one or two items or the consumer was holding another bag in hand.

Both Dr Ciantar and Mr Farrugia agreed that the 40 million shopping bags used in Malta per year were harming the environment. “The retail community is 100 per cent in favour of the proposed measure,” Mr Farrugia confirmed.

He also proposed that the eco tax on shopping bags should be paid by importers as with the system of bin liners and that it should not be up to the retailers to collect the e0.15 per bag.

Meanwhile, the price for each shopping bag will be some e0.25, Mr Farrugia said explaining that the importers’ and retailers’ profit margin and VAT were to be added to the e0.15 eco contribution tax. He also pointed out that consumers should not be made to pay a cheap price for carrier bags in order for them to get the concept that the use of plastic bags should be eradicated.

“The government’s major concern in the field is to implement a measure which allows no lee-way for illicit trading of carrier bags and undeclared stock of bags imported with products,” Mr Farrugia said. He also explained that GRTU was in discussion with the government for a “level playing field” system which gives no space for tax evasion.

An article published in The Malta Independent on Sunday of 28 December called for better use of oxo-biodegradable bags were the solution. This kind of plastic virtually starts degrading once manufactured, while hydro-biodegradable bags need a highly microbial environment like compost to degrade.

The same article also pointed out that the government had shot down the e0.15 eco-tax on all types of plastic bags as announced in Budget 2009, and was considering a more environment friendly taxation system which encouraged the use of oxo-biodegradable and hydro-biodegradable plastic.

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