Sweden to scrap tax on plastic carrier bags

Sweden's right-wing coalition plans to abolish a tax on plastic bags as of November 2024, a tax originally brought in by the previous centre-left government in an attempt to cut the use of plastic.

Sweden to scrap tax on plastic carrier bags
A woman carrying plastic bags from the Ica supermarket. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/Scanpix

“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,” Climate Minister Romina Pourmokhtari told Swedish broadcaster SVT on Wednesday.

The proposal comes one week after the government, in power since October 2022 and backed for the first time by the far-right Sweden Democrats, announced it planned to cut petrol and diesel taxes.

The proposals have raised concerns that the new government’s climate policy is backsliding after years of pioneering efforts.

The Scandinavian country introduced a tax of three kronor ($0.27) on plastic bags in 2020, though some stores raised the price to as much as seven kronor ($0.63).


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.

The EU target is a maximum of 40 per person as of 2025.

“The tax is considered to have some negative effects, such as administrative costs, and can also lead to increased consumption of other alternatives,” the government said in a statement.

Such alternatives include paper bags, the production of which can require higher energy and water consumption.

The Environmental Protection Agency (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.

The government said it would continue to monitor the consumption of plastic bags going forward.

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Did Sweden’s PM play politics in his speech to the nation?

After what was arguably Sweden's worst ever week of gang violence, the country's Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, delivered a solemn address to the nation. But how much was he seeking to unite and how much playing party politics?

Did Sweden's PM play politics in his speech to the nation?

It is a rare event for a Swedish Prime Minister to make a televised speech to the nation. 

Kristersson’s Social Democrat predecessor Magdalena Andersson delivered one in the tense days after Russia invaded Ukraine. Stefan Löfven made two during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aside from those, it has only been the one Göran Persson delivered after the assassination of Sweden’s foreign minister, Anne Lindh, and the one Carl Bildt delivered as the Laser Man serial kiler was shooting random immigrants across the country. 

The idea of such a speech is for the Prime Minister to unite the Swedish people, to provide stability, calm and a sense of direction at a time of crisis. 

Kristersson started his speech last Thursday fully in this tradition, with a simple, grave statement: “It is a difficult time for Sweden.” 

But after hard-hitting descriptions of the worst of the week’s killings, be began to point the blame, and it wasn’t he or his government who were at fault.  

“In fact, many of us saw it coming, and gave warning,” he said. “Serious organised crime has been emerging for more than a decade. Over a ten-year period, gun violence has increased threefold. Political naivety and cluelessness have brought us to this point. Irresponsible immigration policy and failed integration have brought us to this point.” 

The message was clear. The fault lay with the “political naivity” of the previous two Social Democrat-Green coalition governments, and just possibly also with the two Moderate Party-led right-wing alliance governments that preceded them. 

If only they had listened to the calls for tighter immigration coming at that time (then only really from the far-right Sweden Democrats), Sweden would not be in this situation. 

Tomas Ramberg, political commentator for the liberal-left Dagens Nyheter newspaper, complained that this was “not a speech to rally the country across political divides.” 

“Addresses to the nation are rare in Swedish politics. They have been seen as a way to unify the country,” he wrote. “Ulf Kristersson used it to convince people that the government is in control of the situation. But also to try to gather greater support for the government.” 

But even many commentators on the right criticised how politicised the speech was. 

“Let’s just say this: I believe citizens could have done with a prime minister’s speech, not the closing statement of a party leader debate in Agenda,” complained Peter Wennblad,  assistant opinion editor of the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper and a leading right-wing opinion former. 

“I believe Ulf Kristersson would have benefited from holding his speech as a Prime Minister and not as a Moderate,” wrote Moa Berglöf, the former speechwriter for the previous Moderate Party prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, on X. 

Sweden’s prime minister is not alone in playing politics with gang crime, of course. 

The Social Democrats held a press conference on Wednesday in which the party accused the government of having done nothing to combat gang crime.  

“In the election campaign, the government parties promised a new crackdown on the gangs but we’ve seen none of that,” the party wrote in its press release. “Deadline after deadline has passed with no proposals for new laws.” 

Magdalena Andersson, leader of the Social Democrats, called for the government to bring in the military, something Kristersson then promised to do in his speech.

For this, you can hardly blame them. In the election campaign Kristersson, Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch and Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson all criticised the government relentlessly for failing to stop gang violence. 

In June 2022, the Moderates and Christian Democrats even backed a no-confidence vote launched by the Sweden Democrats to depose the then justice minister, Morgan Johansson, with Åkesson writing on X, that the Social Democrats’ soft “orange squash and sticky bun policies” towards criminals had helped turn Sweden into “a gangsterland”. 

“The only people who are pleased with the government’s work are the criminals, those who murder, harm and threaten,” Kristersson wrote. 

It would naive to expect the Social Democrats to forfeit the chance to get their own back for the ruthless way in which the three right-wing parties exploited the issue.

Similarly, now Kristersson has the near impossible task of combatting gang crime, it is hardly surprising that he should want to remind the public again and again that the shootings and explosions started long before he took power.  

Ideally, the government and opposition would unite, create a cross-party commission, and work together to reduce gang crime, depoliticising the issue and opening the way for evidence-based policies that have a better chance of working. 

Might it happen? One day perhaps. But certainly not yet.