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Germany: Draft bill to ban plastic bags coming

September 6, 2019

The use of plastic bags is on the decline in Germany, but the 64% decrease since 2015 doesn't go far enough for Environment Minister Svenja Schulze. Her department has drafted a bill to ban them completely.

Germans holding plastic bags
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Woitas

The German Environment Ministry has drafted a bill which would ban single-use plastic bags.

Environment Minister Svenja Schulze announced on Friday that she plans for the bill to become law in 2020. "I believe that we have the support of the people of Germany," she said. "The time is right for a plastic bag ban."

The Social Democrat politican says that businesses that violate the new regulation could face a fine of €100,000 ($110,000).

Should the bill become law, there will be a six-month "transition period" which will be spent "distributing the remaining stock of plastic bags" and using up the "remaining stock." The ban will also include recycled and ecologically produced plastic bags.

Schulze said the goal was to "get out of the throwaway society and that overall, we use less plastic."

An agreement reached with businesses in 2016 has already been successful in reducing plastic bag consumption. At many stores, consumers must now pay for plastic bags.

According the Environment Ministry, there has been a 64% decline in plastic bag use since 2015.

Plastic bags account for only 1% of packaged plastic consumption. The bill will not include thin plastic bags used for fruit and vegetables, with Schulze pointing out that this could lead to even more waste.

The dirty business of plastic waste

AKK prefers voluntary reductions

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the head of the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) and expected successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, said in August that she preferred to start with voluntary reductions in plastic bag usage.   

"If that does not work, then we can talk about prohibitions," she said.

In an August 12 op-ed in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Kramp-Karrenbauer spoke of introducing environmental policies "with innovation, with optimism." She also proposed an incentive for scrapping oil heating and writing sustainable development into Germany's constitution.

The CDU expects to finalize its new climate protection policy and plan to meet Germany's 2030 climate goals in September.

The proposal to ban plastic bags comes as the Social Democrats and CDU have shed support to the Green party, with environmental and climate concerns increasingly moving to the fore in public opinion.  

The European Union has already moved to ban single-use plastic items such as straws, forks and knives starting in 2021.

cw,ed/rt (dpa, epd, Reuters)

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