Environmentalists have welcomed an outright ban on shops offering plastic bags from February 2023 and the immediate prohibition of oxo-degradable bags.
They argue the ban on plastic carrier bags provided by supermarkets and kiosks came at the right time as Cypriots reverted to picking up bags at shops, leaving their reusable ones at home.
According to the new law passed Thursday, from February 2023, retailers will no longer be allowed to provide plastic bags to customers at the till.
The decision to ban plastic bags comes four years after parliament voted legislation obliging shops to charge for plastic carrier bags.
According to data, the use of carrier plastic bags has dropped 80% since 2018 when a law passed that imposed a €0.06 surcharge per bag at points of sale.
However, environmentalists argue that using reusable bags over single-use plastic bags has been overturned.
In comments to the Financial Mirror, Cyprus Green party leader Charalampos Theopemptou noted the ban on plastic bags comes at a crucial moment, as Cypriots have reverted to their old habits, leaving their reusable bags at home when going shopping.
“When the surcharge on plastic bags was introduced, we saw Cypriots getting on board, taking their reusable bags to supermarkets.
“However, four years later, we are seeing people more relaxed and willing to pay for bags,” said Theopemptou.
He said some supermarkets and kiosks are handing out plastic bags without being asked by customers, most of the time free of charge.
“It’s time to put an end to this as plastic bags are among the single-use plastic products (SUPs) which are extremely harmful to the environment and human health as they are used for a short period before being thrown away.
“They are more likely to end up in seas than reusable options, finding their way back to our tables, this time in food.”
Doubt is cast over whether a reported 80% reduction in plastic bags in Cyprus is accurate, as sources claim that retailers are side-tracking procedures, importing plastic bags from the occupied north and China.
A source close to the island’s plastic bag manufacturing industry argued that authorities estimate the reduction based on production figures given by manufacturers and not the supply of plastic bags to the market.
“The 80% reduction boasted by authorities may be misleading, as the figures refer to a reduction in plastic bags manufactured in Cyprus.
“However, we are in a position to know that large quantities of plastic bags are being imported from the Turkish occupied north of the island and China,” said the source.
Meanwhile, the legislation banned the distribution and use of oxo-degradable plastic bags.
Oxo degradable bags were introduced to EU markets, following a partial ban on plastic bags, portrayed as a biodegradable alternative.
“However, they have been proven to be more damaging to the environment than traditional plastic,” said Theopemptou.
Oxo-film is often falsely marketed as being biodegradable when it is only degradable.
“Oxo-degradable plastics are only degradable – not biodegradable or certified compostable –after the bio-additives have broken down, traditional plastics remain.”
According to the new law, retailers will also be obliged to raise public awareness around the need to reduce the usage of plastic bags.