Minister rips into plastic bag idea

As Greece marked World Environment Day yesterday, the government slammed the door on proposals by supermarkets that customers pay for plastic shopping bags and said the only suggestion it would consider was swapping them for recyclable paper ones. The Association of Greek Supermarkets (SESME) has called for the government to allow its members to charge customers roughly two cents for each plastic bag they use. The move is designed to cut down on the use of the ecologically damaging bags but would have the beneficial side effect for supermarkets of saving them money. The government’s response has been cool and became even chillier yesterday. «We have much more serious problems to discuss. We have one matter to confront: the protection of the environment and for the paper bag to replace the plastic bag,» said Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas. It is estimated that some 8 million plastic bags are used every day in Greece. As a result, some 60,000 tons of plastic bags, which are not biodegradable, end up in landfill sites around the country each year. However, the row over the bags is part of a wider dispute between the government, which says it wants to combat high prices, and supermarkets. In April, the Competition Commission, operating under the Development Ministry, proposed SESME and seven supermarkets be fined a total of some 17 million euros after price-fixing allegations.

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