Free distribution of very lightweight plastic carrier bags to be prohibited from mid-2023
Press release, 24 November 2022
The Seimas has adopted amendments to the Law on the Management of Packaging and Packaging Waste, banning the free of charge distribution by sellers and distributors of not only lightweight but also very lightweight plastic carrier bags at the point of sale of goods or products. The ban shall enter into force in the middle of the following year. Exemptions will only apply to the packaging of fresh meat and fish as well as meat and fish products. The amendments to the framework law were passed by 89 votes in favour, with 4 against and 13 abstentions.
‘Plastic bags pollute the environment throughout their life cycle, both in the production process, when they are made by using non-renewable energy sources, and after they have become waste. Numerous scientific studies on the negative environmental impact of plastic bags have been carried out proving the damage they cause. For example, according to available studies, the greenhouse gas produced in the production of plastic bags is known to contribute to climate change. Studies are also available to demonstrate that incorrectly removed plastic bags contaminate water and soil. Plastic is non-biodegradable; it decomposes into microplastics, which are small, solid and insoluble plastic particles that contaminate water bodies, soil, human bodies and animals, and drift by air. Importantly, it is almost impossible to remove microplastic particles from the environment after plastics are decomposed,’ underline the authors of the draft in the explanatory note.
The adopted amendments aim to reduce the use of the very lightweight carrier bags and their negative impact on the environment. ‘As many as five trillion plastic bags are produced around the world every year. Each plastic bag takes over 1,000 years to decompose. Nearly 513 million tonnes of plastic waste, including waste from plastic bags, enters the oceans every year. According to the European Commission, lightweight plastic bags are one in ten most frequently discarded items in Europe,’ the explanatory note to the draft states.
The amendments are expected to encourage consumers to change their shopping habits at shopping venues and to encourage businesses to contribute to reducing pollution in plastics by finding alternatives to the existing very lightweight plastic carrier bags.
Amendments to the Law on Environmental Protection and the Code of Administrative Offences establish the liability of legal and natural persons for non-compliance and improper compliance with the established requirements.
Rimas Rudaitis, Adviser, Press Office, Information and Communication Department, tel. +370 5 239 6132, e-mail: [email protected]