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Sweden to eliminate taxes on plastic bags amid concerns of rising environmental waste

Removing taxes from plastic bags may give rise to increased consumption, Sweden environmentalists worry

By Web Desk
September 13, 2023
A dumping ground of plastic bags in Sweden. — AFP
A dumping ground of plastic bags in Sweden. — AFP

Sweden's right-wing government announced on Wednesday that it planned to scrap taxes on plastic bags as of November 2024, a move that was sharply slammed by environmental organisations.

"We're convinced that the Swedish people use plastic bags wisely in their daily lives and that there´s no reason they should be extra expensive," Climate Minister Romina Pourmokhtari told Swedish broadcaster SVT on Wednesday.

The proposal comes one week after the government, in power since October 2022 and backed for the first time by the far-right Sweden Democrats, announced it planned to cut petrol and diesel taxes.

The proposals have raised concerns that the new government´s climate policy is backsliding after years of pioneering efforts.

The Scandinavian country introduced a tax of three kronor ($0.27 )on plastic bags in 2020, though some stores raised the price to as much as seven kronor ($0.63).

In 2019, the year before the tax was introduced, Swedes bought 74 plastic bags per person per year, a number that fell to 17 in 2022, according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

The EU target is a maximum of 40 per person as of 2025.

"The tax is considered to have some negative effects, such as administrative costs, and can also lead to increased consumption of other alternatives," the government said in a statement.

Such alternatives include paper bags, the production of which can require higher energy and water consumption.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Marine and Water Management have warned that lowering or abolishing the tax could lead to an increase in plastic waste in nature.

It also "entails the risk that the (EU) target won´t be achieved," the EPA said in an expert consideration of the proposal sent to the government last year.

"The plastic bag tax has shown that financial incentives are an effective way of steering consumers´ use," it said.

The government said it would continue to monitor the consumption of plastic bags going forward.