Ban on free plastic bags not respected on markets

Ban on free plastic bags not respected on markets
Credit: Belga

The ban on free plastic bags in Flanders is very well respected in general, except for on markets, where vendors often still give a free bag to their customers.

Since December 2019, store owners and street vendors are no longer allowed to give free plastic bags with their products in Flanders, as the government wants to reduce the amount of plastic waste.

The legislation states that only plastic bags between 15 and 50 microns (the measurement of the thickness of the plastic) are prohibited, meaning plastic produce bags or bags in clothing stores are still allowed.

In Brussels, however, plastic produce bags in stores will be definitively banned from 1 March, “even if they are bio-sourced and can be composted at home,” according to Brussels Environment. The ban will apply for all shops, market traders and other street vendors in Brussels. It is also understood that Brussels Environment inspectors will be able to carry out checks to see if the rules are being followed.

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Stores can set their own price for the bags, but they are obliged to pass on the cost to the customer. The price must have a dissuasive effect, according to the law, but it is not the intention that retailers will make a profit on the sale of them.

The ban is generally well respected, according to UNIZO, the union of self-employed entrepreneurs. "We've had relatively few complaints. Customers have to get used to the idea, but the mentality switch will come," the union said, reports VRT.

However, on markets, the ban is a little more difficult. "But the checks are happening. Inspectors ask customers if they had to pay for their bags or not. Fines have not been given yet, I believe," said Rudy De Wilde of the national union of market vendors, on Radio 2 on Wednesday morning. The fines can vary between €50 and €100,000 for repeat offenders.

In 2021, the Flemish government will evaluate the results for the use of plastic bags.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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