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No more plastic bags at shops

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Consumers will need to carry their shopping bags to the shops from Saturday as a near-total plastic bag ban comes into effect.

According to the latest ban, plastic bags will no longer be sold at retail shop counters.

The ban covers most businesses, such as pharmacies, kiosks, and supermarkets, while it will also apply to home delivery orders.

The ban covers thin plastic carrier bags meant to transport items purchased at businesses, the specification being less than 50μm thick. This also includes bags labelled as biodegradable.

Shoppers will be able to buy thicker, reusable plastic bags at a higher cost than the 6 cents currently charged for the 20 mm thick bags sold at check-out points.

In comments to Phileleftheros daily, Elena Christodoulidou, from the state Environmental Department, said: “The law will allow businesses to sell thicker than 50 mm plastic bags, as these do not tear easily and are reusable”.

Shops can also supply customers with bags made from paper or other reusable materials.

Christodoulidou said the only exception allowed is when it comes to food packagings such as fruit, meat, and fish, where the foodstuff comes in direct contact with the bag.

The legislation comes under an EU directive to restrict EU citizens from using no more than 40 bags a year.

“Before we introduced a surcharge on bags in Cyprus, Cypriots were consuming more than 200 bags per year. Today that number has dropped to around 100,” said Christodoulidou.

The law is necessary to harmonise Cyprus with the EU directive on reducing the impact of plastic products on the environment was passed last year.

However, the EU directive should have been transposed into law by July 2021.

The new ban concerns all points of sale of products, such as supermarkets, department stores, kiosks, pharmacies, home delivery, and transfers from one company to another (internal trade).

Other types of bags, such as thicker plastic, fabric, paper, and reusable ones, will be offered at the points of sale.

The market will regulate the price of the thicker plastic bags, said the general secretary of the Retail Trade Association, Marios Antoniou.

Retailers do not expect any difficulties arising from the ban: “The aim is for the consumer to have a reusable bag with them and not to buy a plastic one at the counter”.

As announced by authorities, checks will begin immediately after the implementation of the legislation, while extrajudicial fines for offenders start from €150 up to €3,400.