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Bagging it up on my way to England

‘Den xreiazome mia tsanta (I don’t need a bag).’ This is one of the first things I learnt to say in Greek. Some people have told me my Greek isn’t very good and I guess it mustn’t be, because I often feel like I’m in a dream… I’m talking but nothing seems to have come out of my mouth because I’ll say I don’t need a bag several times and still end up with my newspaper or bottle of water in one of the ubiquitous pink or green plastic bags that I have come to associate with Cyprus.

So I’m pretty happy that earlier this year, the EU announced a decision that member states would either have to impose a price on plastic bags by the end of 2018 or limit the amount of bags each person could use to 90 per person per year by the end of 2019 to be cut down even more to 40 by the end of 2025. Carelessly discarded plastic bags have been found to spoil the countryside, create an eyesore on the street and damage wildlife, the seas and the coast.

England became the last country in the UK to implement this law last week. Shops and chains with over 250 full-time staff must now charge around 7 cents per plastic bag. Shops with fewer staff than this number are not obliged to make the charge but can do so if they wish.

My goodness – I wonder what they’ll decide! The government has encouraged retailers to give the takings to charity. Again, there is no obligation but I think they should have to give the money to a worthy cause. I mean, were plastic bags ever free?

The cost has surely always been incorporated into the cost of what you are buying then you waltz out onto the street brandishing the name of the shop where you bought your item from, thus helping the retailer to advertise, too.

It makes me wonder how Cyprus, where, according to the EU, each person uses an average of 400 plastic bags each per year (more than double the UK figure) will deal with these EU instructions — apart from the fact that whatever happens will probably be a last–minute (or ‘passed minute’ more likely) affair.

In any case, I’m off to England soon so I now have something else to add to my packing list. I’ll dig into my plastic bounty under the sink. Not only will I be relieved of having to, no doubt, pay twice for something while there, I will not resent advertising Cypriot supermarkets on the streets of England.

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