Consumption of plastic bags in major Estonian food retail chains has fallen by around 20% following the decision to charge for thinner plastic produce bags, in addition to the larger plastic bags which have incurred a charge for some years.
The development followed an EU Directive from 2016 which aimed at reducing consumption of plastic bags. An estimated 100 billion plastic bags are consumed per year across the EU, it has been claimed, with the bulk of these only being used once and then discarded.
As well as being wasteful, plastic pollution has been highlighted as a major problem globally, leading to vast 'islands' of floating plastic being spotted in the major oceans amongst other environmental damage.
The EU has set a goal of plastic bag usage of no more than 90 per person per year in an effort to reduce usage; the average amount of plastic bags used in Estonia is reported at a couple of hundred bags per person per year, according to an ERR radio news report.
Goodbye to free produce bags galore
Thinner plastic bags were previously freely available in Estonian stores, for instance being placed at or near customer checkout points. This encouraged people who were making smaller purchases in particular to take advantage of these free-of-charge thinner bags instead of paying for a larger bag.
However, within the last couple of years, the larger chain stores in Estonia agreed to put a stop to the practice of providing free thinner plastic bags for free, according to Katrin Bats, public relations officer from major supermarket chain Rimi.
''The decision made in 2016 by retail organizations to stop providing the thinner produce bags from free has meant that we need to order around 20% fewer of them than we had previously done,'' she explained.