Sweden’s conservative government announced on Wednesday its intention to eliminate the plastic bag tax starting in November 2024, a decision that has faced strong criticism from environmental organizations.
Climate Minister Romina Pourmokhtari stated, “We believe that the Swedish people use plastic bags responsibly in their daily lives, and there is no reason for them to be excessively costly.”
This proposal comes just a week after the government, which has been in power since October 2022 and is supported by the far-right Sweden Democrats for the first time, revealed plans to reduce taxes on petrol and diesel. These actions have raised concerns that the new government may be rolling back its climate policies after years of leading initiatives.
In 2020, Sweden introduced a tax of three kronor ($0.27) on plastic bags, although some stores raised the price to as much as seven kronor ($0.63). Before the tax was introduced in 2019, Swedes were purchasing 74 plastic bags per person annually, a figure that dropped to 17 in 2022, according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. The EU’s goal is to limit plastic bag consumption to a maximum of 40 per person by 2025.
The government argued that the tax had negative consequences, such as administrative costs and potentially driving up the use of other alternatives, including paper bags, which can have higher energy and water consumption in their production.
Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Marine and Water Management have expressed concerns that reducing or eliminating the tax could lead to increased plastic waste in the environment and risk not meeting the EU target.
They emphasized that the plastic bag tax had proven effective in influencing consumer behavior through financial incentives. The government has committed to monitoring plastic bag consumption in the future.