Environment minister wants to ban plastic shopping bags

Summary

Joke Schauvliege is preparing a proposal to make plastic bags in supermarkets and other shops illegal

Exception for fresh produce

Flemish environment minister Joke Schauvliege wants a general ban on plastic bags in shops, which would apply not just to supermarkets but to all shops. She will soon present her plan to parliament. A similar measure was recently introduced in Wallonia and will soon come into force in Brussels.

Schauvliege is specifically targeting plastic bags with a thickness of up to 50 micron, or the thin bags often found in supermarkets at the check-out. There would be an exception for the thin plastic bags used to collect fruit and vegetables in produce sections, as there currently is no viable alternative available that ensures hygiene.

A survey by Radio 2 and Flemish waste management agency Ovam shows that about 70% of residents in Flanders already employ reusable bags for grocery shopping.

Opposition party Groen reacted positively to the news, saying that it would improve the health of both people and nature. They ask the minister to allocate a budget for an information and communication campaign for shop owners.

Organisation NSZ, representing the self-employed, said that shop owners will need financial support to invest in reusable bags. Both NSZ and Unizo, also representing the self-employed, responded that a general ban is too drastic.

Unizo pointed out that clothing shops could face difficulties, as clients might not be willing to buy an expensive reusable bag for inexpensive purchases like a T-shirt.

Photo: DPA