Sweden to abolish tax on plastic bags in 2024 as Swedes ‘use plastic bags wisely’

SWEDEN – The Swedish government announced plans to abolish the tax on plastic bags introduced in 2020 from November 2024, a move criticized by environmental groups.

The Scandinavian country introduced a tax of three Swedish kronor (€ 0.25) on plastic bags in 2020, though some stores raised the price to as much as seven kronor (€0.59).

The tax was introduced to achieve the EU’s consumption target for thin plastic carrier bags, set at 40 per person per year.

Swedes yearly consumption of these plastic bags has been below 20 in the past two years, according to the government.

“Against this background, the government assesses that the EU’s consumption target will be achieved even without a tax on plastic carrier bags, and therefore proposes that it be abolished,” the Ministry of Finance said in a statement.

The government argued that the tax has negative effects such as administrative costs and that it may lead to increased consumption of other alternatives, presumably pointing to paper bags, the production of which can require higher energy and water consumption.

“We’re convinced that the Swedish people use plastic bags wisely in their daily lives and that there’s no reason they should be extra expensive,” said Climate Minister Romina Pourmokhtari.

In 2019, the year before the tax was introduced, Swedes bought 74 plastic bags per person per year, a number that fell to 17 in 2022, according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA and the Agency for Marine and Water Management have warned that lowering or abolishing the tax could lead to an increase in plastic waste in nature.

It also “entails the risk that the [EU] target won’t be achieved,” the EPA said in an expert consideration of the proposal sent to the government last year.

“The plastic bag tax has shown that financial incentives are an effective way of steering consumers’ use,” it said.

Sweden’s government is a minority coalition headed by the leader of the right-wing Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson. Kristersson’s cabinet relies on the backing of the far-right Sweden Democrats, who have already confirmed their support for the proposal which is therefore likely to pass in parliament.

The government said in a press release that it will continue to “closely monitor” the evolution of plastic bag consumption.

The proposal comes one week after the government announced it planned to cut petrol and diesel taxes ‘to support those affected by increased prices and mitigate the consequences of inflation’, the Ministries of Finance, Climate and Business, and Rural Affairs and Infrastructure said in a statement.

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