Jan 02 2019

Turks find it hard to part ways with plastic bags

As is the case in many other countries in the world, Turkish retailers have started charging customers for plastic bags as of Tuesday.

According to a new law adopted last month, plastic bags will be sold at a minimum price of 0.25 lira ($0.05) each. Some 60 percent of this amount will be earmarked for state environmental projects of the state. However, the law does not specify either the type of projects or how the earmarked fund will be used. 

Between 30 billion and 35 billion plastic bags are used in Turkey annually, representing some 440 plastic bags per person per year, according to the Environment and Urbanisation Ministry.

The new law has provoked protests in Turkey since the day it was introduced, with many outraged at being forced to pay for plastic bags that have up to now been free of charge. 

The law is one of the rare measures in Turkey that shifts the responsibility of protecting environment to consumers and was a bit of a shock to Turkish consumers who, as one Twitter user put it, have a love affair with plastic bags.

Some suggested protesting the measure before it went into effect on Tuesday and some even started protests in supermarkets by collecting goods from the markets and leaving them at checkout counters without paying.

But reactions to the measure spiked the day retailers started charging for plastic bags, with thousands talking against or in favour of it on social media.

Some complain that plastic bags will be charged. Others who are more sensitive to environment accuse the government of not going far enough and failing to ban plastic bags altogether. Some say that if supermarkets are to price plastic bags, they should not put their logos on them. Others calculate the profits supermarkets will make by selling plastic bags.

Many on social media have offered to sell their plastic bags at lower prices. “A BİM bag on sale by the owner. It is 2018 model, used only once. It has no damage, no broken parts. All parts original. No modification or damage records. Recently serviced. I am behind my bag. I can sell it for 0.15 lira,” a Twitter user said. 

A Turkish woman went to more pretentious lengths, putting on sale plastic bags fit for a Turkish bride’s dowry.

Some posted photos of their plastic bags stockpiled at home to brag of their wealth.

Many posted the photo of old style fabric shopping bags, saying “the king is back.”

Photos of people going to supermarkets with rubbish bags or wheelbarrows were also widely shared. 

Yet despite the outrage on social media, the Ministry announced on Wednesday that plastic bag usage in markets dropped by 70 percent on the first day the new law went into effect, Habertürk news site reported

“In places where 100 bags were given daily to customers, the figures have fallen to approximately 40 to 50,” Ahmet Varır, the head of the ministry’s Zero Waste Department, said.