The Czech Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has issued a statement reminding retailers and consumers that as of January 1, shops must charge for plastic bags or pay a steep penalty.
Charging for plastic bags is not only an obligation under European law, says the MOE of the amendment to the Packaging Act, but an important step toward eradicating the hazardous effects of plastic bags on the environment.
“It is important to realize that each of us uses in one year…300 plastic bags, and in many cases, those bags are completely unnecessary,” says Environment Minister Richard Brabec, adding that “lighter plastic bags can last for up to approximately 25 years.”
“These are alarming facts and we need to do something about it,” he says.
The ministry cites the fact that the UK saw a decrease of plastic bag use by nearly 85 percent after a similar regulation was introduced.
Shops will be required to charge for all plastic bags with a thickness of 15 microns or more. The price is to be determined by shop owners but must cover the cost of the bag.
Failure to comply with the new amendment could mean a fine of up to 500,000 CZK.
Despite their negative impact on the environment, lightweight sacks for bread, produce, and meat will still be free; according to the Ministry, these types of bags serve a hygienic function and also prevent food waste (instead of buying larger packages shoppers tend to fill such bags with only what they need).
In an effort to support their anti-plastic-bag campaign, the Ministry has commissioned a limited edition original canvas bag in two design variations from Czech art students.
The Ministry notes that while a number of retailers already charge for plastic shopping bags, some shops, particularly electronics and shoe stores, still give them away for free.
“Our position is, I think, quite obvious: Giving away free plastic bags is a practice that must end,” Minister Richard Brabec says.