September 14, 2023
And now for something completely different in our Dispatches from the War on Plastics section: The Swedish government has announced that it will repeal — you read that right, repeal — the plastic bag tax next year.
The 3 kroner (28-cent) tax was introduced in 2020 to encourage Swedish shoppers to reduce their use of thin-plastic carrier bags and align consumption with the European Union target of 40 bags per person per year. It accomplished that and more: In the last two years, consumption in Sweden has dipped below 20 plastic carrier bags per person annually, according to the sweden.postsen.com website, which carries news about Sweden in English.
In 2019, the year before the plastic bag tax was introduced, Swedes were using 74 plastic carrier bags per person, reports EuroNews, citing statistics from Sweden’s Environmental Protection Agency. By 2022, that number had dropped to 17 plastic bags per year.
Given that the EU consumption target will be achieved with or without a tax on plastic carrier bags, the government proposes to abolish the tax on Nov. 1, 2024. It also cited the administrative cost and perverse incentive to use alternative materials — presumably paper, which is more resource-intensive to produce — as reasons to sunset the tax.
Although the move had been talked about for months, the government made it official with an announcement on Sept. 13.
Sweden historically has been viewed as a progressive icon in global politics, but the pendulum has swung recently in the opposite direction. Since October 2022, Sweden has been ruled by a coalition of three right-wing parties with the support of the far-right Sweden Democrats, reported Le Monde at the time. Ulf Kristersson of coalition partner the Moderate Party is the current prime minister.
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