Industry association: Lightweight plastic bags in supermarkets not needed

Thinner produce bags at an Estonian store.
Thinner produce bags at an Estonian store. Source: ERR

Charging customers for lightweight plastic bags for fruit, vegetables and similar, should be in place, CEO of the Estonian Circular Economy Industries Association (RMEL) Margit Rüütelmann says, in order to make them think twice about using them at all.

"I can see that the decision by [supermarket] Rimi to start charging 5 cents for lightweight plastic bags has given people pause for thought on the issue of excessive plastics usage. I really hope that those who have regarded a thin plastic bag as somehow their fundamental right will one day reconsider this," Rüütelmann said, according to BNS.

Arguments that such lightweight bags, as distinct from the larger bags often available near supermarket checkouts and which have cost extra for several years, are needed for hygiene purposes are not valid, Rüütelmann went on.

"Claiming that fruit will get contaminated in the shopping basket if it's not packaged in a plastic bag, is ill-founded. Fruit must travel a long way before it reaches the supermarket shelves, and a shopping basket is far from being the most dangerous link in this chain," she said.

Rüütelmann also fails to see biodegradable plastic bags as a good solution, as these still break down into microplastics, 8 million tons of which end up in the ocean and consequently ingested by living organisms.

Microplastics have likewise been found both in drinking water and table salt, according to BNS.

The RMEL says it represents the common interests of its members, and develops waste management in Estonia directed by general principles of sustainable development.

Plastic bag use has been falling in Estonian supermarkets since charges started being introduced in 2018 in many stores; the EU has also been pursuing measures to reduce plastic bag use, dating back to 2015 when the union passed a directive aimed at cutting their use by 80 percent by 2018.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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