Carrier bag charges compulsory from July this year

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CARRIER bags in all shops in Spain will be charged for from July 1 this year, according to a new Bill of Law, or Royal Decree published this weekend.

Supermarkets already charge now for plastic bags – typically two cents for the small and more flimsy ones traditionally used for decades, and around 10 cents for larger, sturdier ones – but other retailers, in the main, continue to give them out for free, especially small, family-run stores.

From July, however, they will no longer be allowed to do so and will have to apply a charge.

They are free to set the price they wish, although the government recommends between five and 15 cents depending upon their size, thickness and composition.

Carrier bags can only be given out free of charge if they are completely necessary for hygiene reasons – such as the small, clear plastic bags provided at fish counters – or for loose products sold by weight, such as fruit.

Otherwise, the only carrier bags which do not have to be charged for are the denser ones, of 50 micrograms or more in thickness, made from a minimum of 70% recycled plastic.

From January 1, 2020, retailers will no longer be able to give out, without charging for, flimsy, breakable bags or those thicker than 50 micrograms – except where they are made up of a minimum of 50% recycled plastic.

And from January 1, 2021, even the very lightest bags, such as the thin, transparent ones used for loose fruit and vegetables, will be required to carry a charge, unless they are made entirely from biodegradable materials.

Retailers are required to ensure customers are aware of bag charges before making purchases, normally by displaying prices on signs.

Very lightweight bag prices are recommended by the new law to be set at around five cents, or thicker ones at approximately 15 cents or lowered to 10 cents if they are at least 50% made with recycled plastic.

The reason for lower prices for flimsier bags is that these ones break down more quickly and tend to disperse among general waste due to their lower weight, and also because they are cheaper to recycle.