Environmental protection: There are still exceptions despite the ban on plastic bags from January 1st

From January 1st, stores will no longer be allowed to give out plastic bags to their customers. A voluntary agreement with retailers has been in place since 2016 that plastic bags can only be handed in against payment. According to the Federal Environment Ministry, this has already reduced consumption by two thirds.

However, some dealers did not participate in the agreement. According to the nature conservation association Nabu, this affected snack bars, bakeries, kiosks and weekly markets. However, due to drifts or incorrect garbage disposal, the plastic bags in these shops often ended up in the countryside or in bodies of water, according to Nabu.

With the ban, plastic bags should now completely disappear from the market. Because if they are not properly recycled, they will remain in the environment for decades and thus endanger animals and people.

What is specifically prohibited?

In the future, single-use plastic bags with a wall thickness of 15 to 50 micrometers will no longer be allowed. These are the bags that are usually handed out at the checkout in shops. So-called bioplastic bags, which are made from plant-based plastics, are also banned. According to the Federal Environment Agency, they are not an environmentally friendly alternative because they can hardly be recycled and are also very poorly degraded in nature. The imprint bioplastic also encourages them not to dispose of them properly.

The new national law is based on an EU directive that allows regulatory measures up to and including a ban on plastic bags. If retailers continue to offer the plastic bags, they will face fines of up to 100,000 euros in the future.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes, the particularly thin shirt bags, which are mostly used for packing loose fruit and vegetables, are still allowed. The EU provides exceptions for these bags with a wall thickness of less than 15 micrometers if this is necessary for hygienic reasons or if the thin bags help to avoid food waste.

The Federal Environment Ministry also argues that a ban on shirt bags would lead to new prepackaging for fruit and vegetables. Because if kiwis and grapes were packed in thick-walled plastic boxes instead, nothing would be gained for environmental protection.

Thick-walled plastic bags with a wall thickness of more than 50 micrometers, which are intended for multiple use, are also allowed. According to Nabu, there are still small but very thick plastic bags for other products, such as perfume.

Is the paper bag a good alternative?

Since the plastic bags cost money in stores, the consumption of paper bags has increased, as confirmed by the Federal Environment Ministry. They are more likely to be recycled and less likely to end up in the environment. But if that happens, the paper fibers disintegrate relatively quickly.
However, the paper bag has a better image than it deserves. Nabu announces that it is not a better alternative to plastic bags from an ecological point of view. Because even brown paper bags are rarely made of waste paper. Instead, a lot of wood, extreme amounts of energy and water as well as chemicals for adhesive material and printing inks are often required for production.

The Nabu therefore calls on the federal government to set a reduction target for paper bags as well. In addition, according to the will of the environmentalists, a statutory tax on disposable paper bags should be introduced.

How do I get the environmentally friendly shopping home?

Reusable carrier bags made from recycled plastic, for example, are ecological. The more they are used, the more environmentally friendly they become. After just three uses, a reusable plastic carrier bag is more environmentally friendly than a disposable plastic bag.

Reusable carrier bags made of polyester are also particularly good because they are very light and last a particularly long time. In the case of fabric bags, consumers can ensure that they are also made from recycled material or from organic cotton. Otherwise, baskets, bags and rucksacks are of course also suitable for transporting your shopping home. Everything that does not have to be newly purchased has a good ecological balance in this case.

Source: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger – Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger by www.ksta.de.

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