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Demand collapses for supermarket plastic bags

Plastic bags are now a rare sight in Swiss supermarkets Keystone/Gaetan Bally

The decision by Switzerland’s main supermarkets to charge CHF0.05 ($0.05) per plastic bag has led to demand plummeting by around 80%. Coop says it has been able to save 850 tons of plastic a year. 

This content was published on November 1, 2017 - 14:31 and agencies, and agencies/ts

Migros was the first retailer to stop giving out plastic bags for free exactly a year ago. Coop and most other large supermarkets, including Denner, Spar and Manor, followed suit. Lidl and Aldi Switzerland don’t even offer plastic bags. 

Since the introduction of a small charge, demand for such bags has fallen by more than 80% at Migros, more than 85% at main rival Coop and 74% at Spar, according to a report by Swiss public radio, SRF, on Wednesday. Denner and Manor did not provide figures. 

This drop in demand corresponds to a retail industry target to reduce the use of free plastic bags by 80% by the beginning of next year. However, plastics bags will remain available for fruit and vegetables. 

Plastic bags are still free in Volg and Landi and also in smaller “express” stores such as Coop Pronto and Migrolino. A spokesman for Coop said it was harder to change the behaviour of customers in these smaller stores than in supermarkets because purchases were often more spontaneous and people tended not to have their own shopping bags. 

Plastic pollution 

Switzerland is one of many countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed single use plastic bags. 

Many bags drift into the ocean, strangling turtles, suffocating seabirds and filling the stomachs of dolphins and whales with waste until they die of starvation. 

Plastic bags, which can take up to 1,000 years to break down, also enter the human food chain through fish and other animals.

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