Dutch ban on free plastic bags sees 71 pct drop in use

Plastic shopping bags (Photo: EdouardHue/Wikimedia Commons)Plastic shopping bags (Photo: EdouardHue/Wikimedia Commons)

The use of plastic bags dropped 71 percent since the Dutch government banned shops from giving them out for free in 2016, according to a report commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment on the results of the ban. Some 300 retailers were questioned about their experience with the free plastic bag ban, NU.nl reports.

Bakers and butchers estimated that about six out of 10 customers now bring their own bag. Department stores estimate about 40 percent. The ban on free plastic bags was introduced in the fight against litter. According to a study by Dutch public works department Rijkswaterstaat, the number of plastic bags that end up as litter decreased by 40 percent.

A total of 30 percent of retailers now offer paper bags, as an alternative to the plastic bag. In most cases the paper bag is offered for free. And while some retailers doubt whether paper bags are really more environmentally friendly, the ban on plastic did mean a 30 percent increase in sales for paper bag wholesalers. 

Most retailers support the free plastic bag ban and only a small percentage still insist on giving plastic bags away with purchases. About 3 percent of market vendors and 5 percent of department stores still give bags away. All butchers, bakers and greengrocers adhere to the ban.

Market vendors charge an average of 6.9 cents per plastic bags. Department stores and small businesses charge around 10 cents per bag. In exceptional cases a plastic bag can cost up to 29 cents.