German lawmakers moved on Friday to rein in legal loopholes that allow plastic food wrap and plastic bags to remain in store shelves across the country.
The new measures include trying to prevent shoppers from substituting cheap paper bags to shop for organic food. In states that prohibit plastic bags, shops will have to submit “compliant” bags to the government before they can begin offering them. They will also have to apply for special permit to sell single-use plastic products, including plastic wrap, which many people believe to be harmful to the environment.
The legislation also aims to address legal loopholes that allowed “natural vendors” – such as local farms and farmers’ markets — to sell plastic bags, as well as paper bags made from corn starch rather than glass or paper fibers. They will have to pay fees for those products if they want to sell them in retail outlets.
“People should only be allowed to use plastic bags for about 50 euros a year — we want people to consume more green products,” Hannes Seifert, the vice president of Germany’s parliament, said on Friday. “The climate remains our number one problem. We have to figure out a way to protect our environment, despite our surplus population.”
Many in the German retail industry opposed the legislation, saying it was unfair to exempt certain items while banning other products. Retailers said the new rules might cause store shelves to overflow in future. More than 15,000 people attended a “Stop the Ban” demonstration in Bonn on Thursday.
“Plastic products can be used in appropriate environmental circumstances,” Marcel Koch, the CEO of German grocery chain Lidl, said. “There is no cause for worry.”
Despite the objections, the legislation passed its third reading in the Bundestag with no objections from any party. Now that it has passed, it needs to be signed by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier before it becomes law.