Turkey bans free plastic bags as of 2019

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free as part of the government’s policy to reduce pollution. Xinhua

ANKARA (Xinhua) – The most debated regulation that divided Turkish society has been put into effect since Jan. 1, 2019 – ban on free plastic bags as part of the government policy to reduce pollution.

According to the new rules, stores cannot give plastic bags for free to consumers except for small sized plastic bags ranging from 15 to 50 microns in a bid to protect food sold openly.

The stores have to charge 0.25 Turkish liras (US$0.4) for a single-use plastic bag or offer bags which are partially made from recycled materials. Stores that provide free plastic bags will be fined as much as 10 liras per square meter of the stores’ property.

In the first four days with the new regulation, the number of plastic bags used by customers decreased almost by 50 percent, said Turkish Minister of Environment and Urbanisation Murat Kurum.

“Our goal is to reduce the usage of plastic bags by 90 percent, to 40 plastic bags per person annually by 2025,” the minister said.

Plastic bags are popular in Turkey partly because people use them as garbage bags at home, instead of buying bin bags.

Use of single-use plastic bags in the country was 440 bags per person, adding up to a total of 30 – 35 billion bags a year, according to Sebahattin Dokmeci, chairman of Turkish Environmental Administration of the Environment and Urbanisation Ministry.

Recycling of the material is very difficult and only one percent of the plastic bags are recycled in Turkey, he added.

Turks are now looking for alternative bags as budget-friendly options. Grocery stores started to sell cloth and recycled bags.

The new regulation prompted a surge in the demand for vintage string grocery bags which increased by 154 percent in December 2018 compared to the same month of 2017, according to data provided by e-commerce platform hepsiburada.com.

Esenyurt Municipality in Istanbul Province delivered cloth bags to residents free of change.

Plastic manufacturers say that tens of thousands of jobs are now at risk.

Some 20,000 people are employed at plastic production industry in Turkey and half of them will lose their job if the use of plastic decrease by 50 percent, Yavuz Erdoglu, chairman of Turkish Plastic Industry Research and Education Foundation warned.

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