Attitudes towards plastic bags have changed in Finland in recent years. More and more Finns are bringing their own reusable bags to food stores and many feel guilty about buying a plastic bag.
"I will never buy any more plastic bags, because I don’t need them," says K-Market customer Anna-Leena Anteroinen. "I feel terrible to think that they will go into landfill."
She feels that even though Finland is a small country and may not make such a huge impact on a global scale, it’s still important to try to do small things like reusing plastic bags as bin bags.
Another Helsinki shopper, Marja-Terttu Vihervuori sees bringing your own bag as both financially and environmentally sensible.
"Many times a year you end up buying a bag because you’ve forgotten yours at home. I think it’s ecologically wasteful and it’s more cost effective to bring your own bag."
"There is a lot of talk about reducing the use of disposable products, so people are paying more attention to the amount of plastic and reusable bags that are in use,” says the Ministry of the Environment’s Environmental Protection Adviser, Tarja-Riitta Blauberg.
Finland bags more reusables
In S-Group stores, sales of reusable bags have increased by 27.4 percent since last year. 133,000 more reusable bags were sold in 2012 than in 2011.
Large retail group Kesko also says that the sale of reusable bags has boomed. A large share of Kesko’s bag sales still consists of plastic bags, but a quarter of the sales are recycled bags.
EU-wide plastic bag tax possible
In Finland, one household uses about 100 bags each year. This amount does not include free bags and fruit bags. S-Group stores alone left customers with nearly 144 million plastic bags last year.
Each EU resident uses on average 500 plastic bags per year. In the EU in 2010, 95.5 billion plastic bags were sold, 92 percent of which were for one-time-use.
As a result, the European Commission is considering ways to reduce the use of plastic bags. One of the ways being tables is the introduction of a tax on plastic bags, however, in Finland this hasn’t been deemed necessary.
“Plastic bags must be paid for in stores, so that takes care of the issue of consumption in the same way as a tax does,” says Blauberg.
In some EU countries, plastic bags are already subject to a tax, and in Italy for example, non-biodegradable plastic bags are banned completely. In Ireland, a 15 cent charge for plastic bags decreased the amount of comsumption by 90 percent in just one week.
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