From January 1 next year Greeks will have to pay 3 cents for lightweight plastic bags such as those currently given away at supermarkets and other stores. The charge will rise to 0.07 euros from January 1, 2019.
The aim of the measure is to drastically reduce the number of plastic bags in Greece. At the moment each Greek uses an average of some 400 plastic bags per year but authorities want to reduce this number to 90 by 2020.
The special charge that will apply from next year will be collected by the Independent Authority for Public Revenue (AADE) and the funds will then be transferred to the Hellenic Recycling Agency (EOAN). If there are problems meeting the targets that have been set, the sale of some types of bags may be banned completely.
The measure, agreed by the Finance Ministry and AADE, relates to polythene bags whose thickness is no more than 50 microns. Businesses will be allowed to charge customers for thicker carrier bags, measuring between 50 and 70 microns. Retailers will be allowed to provide customers with free reusable bags as long as this is part of a scheme to collect lightweight plastic bags so they can be recycled.
The decision taken by authorities also bans the use of oxo-degradable bags as these are deemed to contribute to pollution when they break up into smaller particles. In contrast, biodegradable bags can continue to be supplied to customers free of charge.
Kiosks and other outdoor businesses, such as produce sellers at open-air markets, will be able to continue to provide their customers with lightweight plastic bags free of charge after January 1 next year.
However, the carrier bags that they provide will have to have a serial number and a sign that displays the place and time of production, as well as the producer’s ID number from the national registry.
If businesses are found to be ignoring the new regulation, they face fines of between 200 and 5,000 euros. Producers of plastic bags can be handed fines of between 1,000 and 10,000 euros if they do not comply.
The funds raised by the environmental charge, as well as any fines collected, will be used by EOAN to provide incentives for the wider use of reusable bags and to run awareness programs in association with local authorities.