What can Austria's plastic bag ban achieve?

The Austrian government passed a law banning plastic bags at the end of last year. Now its implementation is being worked out with retailers. Environment Minister Elisabeth Köstinger (ÖVP) wants "an end to plastic waste". It is estimated that the ban on plastic bags will reduce such waste by 5,000 to 7,000 tonnes. But commentators have their doubts about the effectiveness of the ban.

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Der Standard (AT) /

Just the tip of the iceberg

The ban doesn't go far enough, Der Standard complains:

“This is certainly no milestone. Because for Austria to be seen as a pioneer it would have had to act a year earlier. That role belongs to countries like Rwanda and Bangladesh. And plastic bags are just the tip of the iceberg. Limiting their volume in Austria is a simple task, particularly since many chain stores have done a lot of the groundwork by voluntarily giving them up. Then there's the fact that the current goals are ambitious, but not binding. It would have been better to tackle the uncontrolled increase in PET bottles. Scandinavia and Germany are much further ahead on this score, with tried and tested deposit systems. But Austria lacks the political will for such solutions.”

Kurier (AT) /

Pointless environmental activism

Kurier finds the ban annoying for different reasons:

“In an international comparison hardly any other country is more exemplary when it comes to separating garbage. At the end of December, Altstoff Recycling Austria AG (ARA) announced a new record: 645,000 tonnes of waste paper, 232,500 tonnes of used glass and 176,200 tonnes of plastic packaging were collected. Because Asia and Africa deal with plastic far less responsibly and millions of tons are burned on the roadside or simply flushed into the oceans by the next monsoon, the Austrian population in particular is easily won over by any form of environmental activism - even if ultimately it's pure populism. But chemistry and technology in any form are regarded as suspect in this country.”