Presentation of the Marine Strategy and consultation on policy issues related to the reduction of single use plastic carrier bags and to the amount of a possible imposed levy.
On Friday, September 16 2016, the 3rd stakeholders’ Consultation Forum was successfully held.
The forum, which took place in the Auditorium of the Ministry of Environment, under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment and the Hellenic Recycling Agency (HRA), was attended by more than 60 participants from relevant stakeholder bodies. Amongst the participants were also present: Jacques Ganoulis, Special Secretary for Water of the Ministry of Environment, representatives of the Ministry of Environment, of the Hellenic Recycling Agency, of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, of plastic bag production associations, industry and supermarket chains, of Alternative Management Systems of Packaging and other Products, of environmental organizations, of researchers from various universities and institutes and others.
The third forum focused on two topics:
- The Marine Strategy in relation to the reduction of single use plastic carrier bags
- The policy issues for the reduction of plastic bag consumption related to the Measure of Imposing a Levy, towards the harmonization of Greece to the relative Directive 2015/720/EU.
Among the opinions and proposals expressed, the most important are the following:
- The importance of the LIFE DEBAG Project’s role and especially of the stakeholders’ consultation forums towards the general effort to protect the marine and coastal environment from marine litter, but also towards the efforts of harmonization with the EU legislation that our country carries out, under the marine strategy context.
- The fact that a “levy” must be imposed on the use of plastic bags. The proposals made for the pricing of the “levy” ranged in amounts of 0.02 € plus VAT, € 0.05 excluding VAT and 0.1 € including VAT. It was also suggested that the “levy” must be imposed “horizontally”, to all retail outlets.
- The stakeholders agreed that the “levy” or any other policy measures should take into account the efforts to reduce the impact on plastic bag industry, to safeguard the related jobs and to offset the pricing measures with other policy measures. To this direction, the following measures have been proposed: a) the production of compostable bags, b) the increase of production of waste bags c) the increase of multipurpose plastic bag and handbag production, and d) the support of plastic bag industry, by refunding part (0.01 € or 0.025 €) of the “levy”.
- Opposite arguments have been expressed to the proposal of refunding 50% of the “levy” to the plastic bag industry, such as: a) according to the European standards, the refunding may be possibly considered as an illegal subsidy of the industry, and b) many other sectors of the economy could claim similar favorable treatment if affected by any economic measure or policy.
- The “refunding” proposals should be subjected to a thorough legal investigation and to political consultation before being adopted.
- Various procedures have been suggested for the collection and disposal of the “levy”. The common component of the suggestions was that the “levy” must be rewarding for the consumers and that most of it must return back to them, either in the way of multipurpose carrier means (which will gradually help the consumers to reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags) or through information/awareness programs, or by strengthening research for new materials and good environmental practices.
- Parallel proposals have been submitted for the reduction of the use of plastic bags, such as: a) to impose a similar “levy” to the use of disposable paper carrier bags, b) to charge the compostable bags with the additional costs of production and transport (approximately 0.05 €), c) to oblige all retail outlets to offer alternative means of transport, d) to enter voluntary agreements to reward consumers who don’t use (or use very few) single-use plastic carrier bags, e) to provide specific incentives to activate the Local Authorities, f) to establish the implementation of extensive information/awareness programs on the issue with targeted content g) to promote the use of compostable bags where the use of single-use plastic carrier bags cannot be avoided h) to promote specific policies and a timetable for Sorting At Source (SAS) of organic materials, which will contribute to the drastic reduction of the use of plastic bags and to achieve the objectives of the National Waste Management Plan (NAP), and i) to examine in 2020 the possibility of banning single-use plastic carrier bags depending on the data configured at that time.
- The increase in plastic bag recycling has been suggested, as a crucial measure to prevent the negative impact of plastic bags.
- To implement the Law 2939 for fully charging plastic bags, in the context of increasing financial resources for recycling, and to study the actual experience in reducing the use of plastic bags at the super markets which charge single-use plastic carrier bags (compared with other chains that do not charge its use), has also been suggested.
- Other specific issues have been discussed, such as: a) the quantity of plastic bags consumed in Greece nowadays, b) how we measure plastic bags, c) the EU policy for compostable bags, d) what happens to the bags, which are excluded from the Directive (bags with thicknesses less than 15 microns or more than 50 microns) and d) how can the “levy” be rewarding to the consumers.
It is clear that this forum does not put an end to the consultation on the harmonization with the relevant Directive. It is crucial, however, that it lays the basis to formulate all the stakeholders’ suggestions and proposals, so that the government can succeed in adopting the best policy options, in order:
- to promptly achieve the harmonization with the relevant Directive
- to drastically reduce the consumption of single-use plastic carrier bags
The consultation on the harmonization with the Directive is now open and will continue in the next 3 forums of the LIFE DEBAG Project. It is a common expectation that the harmonization will be effective, without adverse effects on employment or on the related economic sectors.