How Latvian stores prepare for future ban on free plastic bags

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Stores will no longer be allowed to offer free plastic bags as of 2025. Shops are preparing for this in a variety of ways: they offer different alternatives, such as paper and reusable bags, and they also charge for thin plastic bags, representatives of supermarket networks told Latvian Radio on August 30.

“Maxima Latvija” Food Production Department director Dace Grava-Birzāka said that as of April this year, free paper bags are being offered at the fruit and vegetable stands, and so far the results are good – people really choose them instead of plastic bags.

“Traders are aware of their impact on buyer habits, and therefore do more and go ahead with what buyers will do. In part, we are already helping buyers to develop their habits,” she said.

Rimi's external communications chief, Inga Bite, said that two shops in Rimi launched a pilot project charging three cents for small plastic bags. She estimated there was a positive trend in changing people's habits, as people increasingly bring their own bags.

“It's the responsibility of us as traders, knowing the volume and impact of plastic. For example, it is intended that the paper bag is more convenient and cheaper than the plastic bag. The placement at the cash registers is much better for paper bags,” she said.

Meanwhile, Lidl's supermarket network, although still offering small plastic bags for fruit and vegetables, have placed signs on the possibility of purchasing lightweight and convenient reusable bags, said Antra Birzule, head of corporate social responsibility for supermarket network Lidl.

Representatives of supermarket networks said that people's habits over the last four to five years have been changing slowly but steadily – plastic bags are purchased less frequently, and paper bags are chosen more frequently. There is also a strong demand for reusable lunch boxes and water bottles.

Rudīte Vesere, director of the Environment Protection Department at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development said that there are common objectives and settings in the European Union to reduce the consumption of plastic bags, so their norms are also incorporated into Latvian laws and regulations.

"Our traders are doing this very well with informing people, but the next step is 2025 when plastic bags can no longer be offered at all. Except the extra-thin ones. We are currently considering whether it is worth waiting for 2025, because we have very good works and all the preconditions for us to abandon these plastic bags sooner and consider the use of these very thin bags too," said Vesere.

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