Plastic bags will soon be history

Plastic bags will soon be history

By 2022, plastic bags are planned to disappear from the market for good. This has now been decided by the German Bundestag.

With the ban on plastic bags, the Federal Government wants to tackle the plastic problem and save resources.

Plastic shopping bags have been part of people's everyday lives for a long time. However, in recent years, the images of beaches and seas polluted by plastic waste have triggered society's rethinking: Many customers bring their own bags for shopping. Likewise, retailers offer reusable alternatives or paper bags, and charge a few cents for each plastic bag sold. With regards to environmental protection and resource conservation, Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze launched a draft law banning plastic bags in November 2019. Now the Bundestag has approved the amendment. From 1 January 2022, the sale of plastic bags will be prohibited in Germany. However, the approval of the Bundesrat is still pending.

Reusable instead of disposable

The plastic bag is synonym for the waste of resources, argues the Federal Environment Minister. "Used for just a few minutes, only to be in the environment for decades. This mentality is no longer up to date". However, disposable articles made of other materials such as paper bags are not an alternative, says Schulze. They do rot faster when they are released into the environment. However, the production process produces comparatively high levels of CO2 emissions and uses a lot of water, which then has to be expensively cleaned. The best alternative is therefore reusable bags such as cloth bags, backpacks, baskets or other recyclable containers. This also includes plastic boxes for fresh produce from the meat counter or salad bar.

No alternatives for fruit bags yet

The ultra-thin bags for fruit and vegetable, however, will remain because there are no convincing alternatives yet. A ban on these would possibly bring more (pre-)packaging onto the market, which could lead to an increase in packaging waste, the Minister argues. Plastic bags with a wall thickness of more than 50 micrometres or made of polyester are also excluded from the ban because they are more durable. Here the principle applies: the more often a bag can be used, the more environmentally friendly it is.

Less plastic, more recycling

Even though consumption has been declining for years, around 1.6 billion plastic bags are still used in Germany every year - this amounts to 20 plastic bags per person per year. The law banning plastic bags is intended to replace the voluntary agreement concluded between the German government and the trade sector in 2015 to no longer distribute plastic bags free of charge and to promote the trend towards less plastic and more recycling.