Turkey boosts revenue and avoids pollution with plastic bag tax

Charging customers for plastic bags, a practice introduced two years ago, has paid off. Environment and Urban Planning Minister Murat Kurum said the initiative has helped reduce the use of plastic bags by up to 80% in Turkey and the government has accumulated more than 23 million TL ($3.16 million) through its share of the “recycling rate” tax.

“We have made significant gains, but the most important of these is a change in people’s habits. The number of plastic bags used each year has fallen to 2.5 billion from 30 billion two years ago,” he said in an interview, promising the practice would remain in effect.

Supermarkets and other businesses started charging customers 0.25 TL on January 1, 2019, under new government regulations to complement the ambitious Zero Waste project. The Ministry of Treasury and Finance used to receive 0.15 TL from each bag and this number has now been increased to 0.19 TL. Last year, the ministry collected more than TL 1 million out of 23 million bags sold to customers.

“We are seeing a drop in demand for plastic bags, especially from supermarket chains. Along with this, the production rate of polyethylene packaging (plastic bags) has fallen to 900 million kilos from 1.4 billion kilos last year,” Kurum explains.

Following the success of the regulations, the government last year introduced the next stage of its recycling and savings plan. Tires, batteries, vegetable oils, electrical appliances and medicines can now be recycled free of charge.

In 2019, an average person used 440 plastic bags per year. An estimated 5 trillion plastic bags are used globally every year, contributing to marine pollution, as some 8 million tonnes of plastic, including bags, are dumped into the ocean every year, killing life marine and entering the human food chain, according to a United Nations report. report on the matter.

Although low, the price of plastic bags has led consumers to look for other ways to transport their purchased goods, and some municipalities distribute free canvas bags to shoppers.

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Bryce K. Locke