In addition to conventional plastic carrier bags, which can be bought at a checkout, very thin plastic bags, which may be used, for example, for packaging fruit, meat or fish and which are important for food hygiene, should also be highlighted as a separate concept according to a proposal of the Minister of the Environment Keit Pentus-Rosimannus. Consumption of these plastic bags should also be reduced, although specificities of its use and alternatives should be taken into consideration.
The absence of alternatives is likely to trigger the need to distribute costless plastic bags also in the future in order to protect the food from contamination or prevent food from staining other goods. Additionally, it is important to avoid producing more packages in general, which can accompany the limitation of very thin plastic bags.
For Estonia, sovereignty of Member States while deciding independently on appropriate measures regarding the reduction of plastic carrier bags consumption is very important. Moreover, specific characteristics of the Member States should be considered and there should be enough time for implementing these measures.
In 2010, average consumption of plastic bags per Member State was presented in the Commission’s initiative and impact assessment. According to the impact assessment, consumption of plastic bags varied widely between Member States: pursuant to the Commission, annual usage of plastic bags for each EU citizen ranges from four bags in Denmark and Finland to 466 bags in Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Estonia. Estonia considers this data in the impact assessment regarding the usage of lightweight plastic bags to be unreliable and inaccurate.
Following the results of an inquiry carried by the Estonian Traders' Association, it has now become evident that 38 plastic bags and 171 very thin plastic bags, designed for free packaging, are being consumed annually per one Estonian citizen.
Estonia manages to recycle 40% of plastic packaging waste, the rest is used for energy production in waste incineration and cement plants.