NICOSIA – Trying to cut down pollution, Cyprus has banned the free distribution of shopping plastic bags in supermarkets and other vending points for now, Environment Commissioner Ioanna Panayiotou said.
“We aim to ultimately take out 16,000 tons of plastic used to make shopping bags,” she said, the Chinese news agency Xinhua said, a move similar to Greece imposing a fee on plastic bags at markets to provide an incentive for shoppers to bring their own or use fabric or other bags good for multiple uses.
Cyprus is applying a European Union Directive which should have been put in force six months earlier but no penalties were imposed as it got another six months to implement the program.
Panayiotou said that most of the plastic bags taken home by shoppers end up in the sea, where they break up in tiny pieces and become part of the fish diet. “Plastic ultimately returns into the humans through the consumption of fish,” she said.
She said it will be a success if the use of plastic bags was reduced to 90 bags per person per year by the end of 2019. Shoppers can still use plastic bags by paying five cent plus value added tax for each bag.
“We expect that buying bags will become a budget burden that will lead people to using reusable bags to take home their shopping,” she said without explaining why people would balk at 5 cents a bags.
Supermarkets have started selling reusable bags as using paper bags is also considered to be unfriendly to the environment.
“Using paper is not as innocent as it sounds. It means cutting down more trees and pollution with chemicals used to make the paper,” Georgios Theopemptou, a Green Party lawmaker said, adding that people should be trained to take reusable bags for shopping.