Sweden’s Ministry of Finance announced yesterday that it plans to abolish a tax on plastic bags on November 1, 2024.
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 consumptions of other alternatives, presumably pointing to paper bags, the production of which can require higher energy and water consumption.
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 proposal comes one week after the government announced it planned to cut petrol and diesel taxes ‘in order 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.