Norway to battle EU plastic bag tyranny

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A year's worth of plastic bags collected by one man. Photo: Taber Andrew Bain/Flickr
07:58 CEST+02:00
Norway may refuse the new EU law aimed at halving plastic shopping bag use, arguing Norwegians need the bags for their rubbish.

The Norwegian Environment Agency is pushing for the country to ask for special dispensation allowing it not to enact the law, because Norwegians, unlike many other Europeans, do not waste their plastic bags.

On average, Europeans use 198 disposable plastic bags each per year. A new EU directive, aimed at reducing waste, obliges states to half that number by 2019, and reduce it to just 45 bags per person by 2025.

Alternatively states can ban shops from giving plastic bags for free by 2017.

"In this country plastic bag consumption is not an environmental problem. In Europe, plastic bags are a litter problem, while Norwegians use them as rubbish bags," Ellen Hambro, Director of the agency told Norway's Dagens Næringsliv newspaper.
Although Norway is not an EU member state, it is part of the European Economic Area, and ratifies most EU conventions.

Hambro argued that because Norwegian plastic bags were larger and of better quality than those in other European countries, they could double up as rubbish bags. 

"The plastic bags that are often used are thinner and smaller, so they are not suitable for rubbish so they often end up where they are not intended. A large number end up in nature in many countries. Here at home, only three percent of the bags end up being thrown away." 

82% of plastic bags are used for garbage disposal in Norway, while 15% are recycled and become new plastic products.

Hambro does not see plastic bags as a problem in Norway.
"Plastic bags are not a litter problem in Norway. The environment agency recommends that the Ministry of Climate and the Environment ask for an exception from the requirement, as we don't have the same environmental problem as other European countries," Hambro said in a press release.

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