NEWS

25 July 2018

Spain Forges Ahead With Charges On Light Plastic Carrier Bags

As of 1 July 2018, businesses in Spain are now required by law to charge between 5 and 15 euro cents per light plastic carrier bag used by consumers, in a move designed to reduce the country’s generation of plastic waste and raise awareness of the considerable challenge which plastics pose to society.


The news this month that Spain has implemented a ban on the free distribution of light plastic carrier bags has been welcomed across Europe, as Spain forges ahead with a series of short-term and longer-term proposals to alleviate the burden of single-use plastics and plastic pollution in general.


Confirmed by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and Environment, from 1 July 2018, Spanish shops have been required to charge clients between 5 and 15 euro cents per light plastic bag (with the charge depending on the weight of the bag).


It should be noted that ultra-light plastic bags and thicker, recyclable bags are exempt from this charge, although according to Spanish consumer organisation and CIRC-PACK partner OCU, a total ban on light and ultra- light bags that are not compostable will come into force in January of 2021.


In a press communiqué, the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment said: “This is a first step towards freeing our environment of plastic waste and towards raising awareness among consumers of the need to reduce our use of plastic bags.”


The Ministry said that steps were being taken at a national level to raise levels of recycling and re-use, as well as to promote the generation of "quality recycled plastic”.


The new legislation is just the first step in Spain’s roadmap for plastics set out under the draft Spanish Circular Economy Strategy.


According to OCU, there are three broad categories of plastic bags in circulation:


Ultra-light bags (under 15 microns thick) are used for fresh or bulk produce such as fruit, meat or fish (and are exempt from charges under the current system); light plastic bags (up to 50 microns thick) which are now subject to charges in shops and businesses, and; the thicker plastic bags of more than 50 microns.


Come 2021, the ban on ultra-light and light plastic bags which aren’t compostable will place Spain among the leading economies in Europe for plastics legislation.


In Europe, of the 27 million tones of plastic waste produced each year, only around 9 million tones are recycled. Moreover, according to CIRC-PACK partner CIRCE, some 89% of plastic bags are only used once and in any case, typically take between 100 and 500 years to decompose – a burden on both society and the environment.