What you need to know about Sweden’s new plastic bag tax

A new tax on plastic bags will be introduced in Sweden from May 1st, which is likely to mean the price for consumers will rise.

What you need to know about Sweden's new plastic bag tax
The tax will be charged to manufacturers, but it's likely it will be passed on to the end consumer. Photo: Berit Roald/NTB scanpix/TT

The tax will be three kronor for standard plastic bags and 30 öre for the smaller fruit and vegetable bags.

It will be the manufacturers who pay the tax on the bags, but the Swedish Trade Federation (Svensk Handel) warned that the price will ultimately be passed on to consumers by shops. It estimated that the price for a plastic bag will rise to six or seven kronor.

The goal behind this change is to reduce rubbish in nature and in the sea, according to an EU directive from 2015. Member states are expected to reduce plastic bag usage to 40 per person per year by 2025 at the latest.

But it has been met with criticism from trade organizations.

“It's poorly thought through, virtue signalling that isn't helpful to the environment and which will hit jobs in Swedish trade,” said Mats Hedenström, head of business policy at the Swedish Trade Federation.

The organization argues that there isn't a significant problem with littering of plastic bags in Swedish nature, and that usage of plastic bags has been reduced significantly already, thanks to a fee which the organization's members have been charging for a few years. 

“We are already quite good at throwing things away in the right place, sorting and reusing plastic bags for household waste so that they go in the cycle again,” commented Hedenström.

Another criticism from the Swedish Trade Federation was that the law doesn't differentiate between plastic bags made using fossil fuels and those made from renewable plastic which is easy to recycle.

The law, which the government decided on on Wednesday, will come into effect from March 1st, but the tax itself will only apply from May 1st.

Swedish vocabulary

tax – (en) skatt

plastic bag – (en) plastpåse/plastkasse

sea – (ett) hav

to recycle – att återvinna

household waste – hushållsavfall

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