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Society

Greece Taxing, Banning Single-Use Plastics, Containers, Cotton Buds, Straws

ATHENS — After several failed efforts to cut down on the use of non-biodegradable products, primarily plastics, Greece’s New Democracy plans to prohibit single-use plastics, from takeaway coffee cups to cotton buds, as well as straws.

That would be done ahead of an EU deadline in 2021, the government said, reported Reuters, with Greeks heavily reliant on using the items that clog waste streams and oceans and the country’s low recycling rate.

Some 350 million plastic cups and 2 billion plastic bottles are used annually, the Environment Ministry said. In the European Union, about 80 percent of the litter that ends in the sea, endangering marine life, is plastic.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is making environmental issues a priority, unusual for New Democracy, and the news agency said his government wants a bill to be voted on by the end of July after public consultation.

Environment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said Greece was far behind other EU countries and belonged “more to the 19th Century” when it came to recycling with many Greeks routinely tossing garbage into recycling bins, unwilling to take a couple of more steps to put it in rubbish bins.

He said there would be a 4-euro-cent surcharge on plastic cups and food containers and plastic cups from 2022 and water facilities in public spaces from July 2021. From 2023, consumers will get a refund if they return plastic bottles. The money will be allocated to the Green Fund to finance environmentally friendly projects.

Businesses such as restaurants, cafes and takeaway outlets will be obliged to provide their customers with reusable packaging, said Kathimerini although it wasn’t explained why there would be a tax on banned substances not supposed to be used.

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