Portuguese Environmentalists Urge Ban on Free Plastic Bags

Portuguese Environmentalists Urge Ban on Free Plastic Bags

Reusable Bags Made of Recycled Plastic Bottles | Plastic Bag Ban Report
LISBON, Portugal, May 10, 2012 (ENS) - Grocery shoppers in Portugal now can choose to buy a new kind of reuseable bag made from recycled plastic bottles. But the environmental association Quercus wants the country to go a big step further and ban the giveaway of single-use plastic bags altogether.

Last year, the Portuguese Association of Companies and Distribution (APED) launched the Green Bag program with bags made of 99 percent recycled PET bottles, citing the advantage of saving natural resources by using recycled materials.

"The launch of this new Green Bag translates, once again, the sense of responsibility of APED for the environment and prevention of waste, contributing to the sustainable consumption of natural resources and to promote eco-consumption," APED said.

The new Green Bag can be purchased in APED member stores of the Continental, Jumbo, Modelo Bonjour, Model, Sugar Loaf, Pingo Doce and Staples brands.

The new Green Bag is an improvement on the reusable bags that were sold by APED member stores from 2002 to 2011. Those were popular, selling a total of about 10 million.

Quercus spokesperson Carmen Lima says grocery shoppers fell out of the habit of taking reusable bags to stores as soon as they were handed out for free.

The Lisbon-based environmental group is campaigning for a gradual change that results in an end to free plastic bag distribution by 2015.

Changing People's Plastic Bag Habits
“We are not in favor of a radical change. There are already some supermarkets that have stopped giving away free bags and clients are getting used to this. Free bags are undervalued,” she told the Lusa News agency on Friday.

For Quercus, “the most important isn’t the material used for the bags, but it’s about changing people’s habits and re-educating consumers,” said Lima.

For that to happen, businesses need to present alternatives.

One alternative is happening in the Jumbo supermarket chain, which has "eco-tills," where free plastic bags are not handed out, beside their regular tills, which still offer single-use plastic bags.

Lidl and Pingo Doce supermarkets do not offer free plastic bags anymore. At Lidl stores, shoppers pay four cents per plastic bag, while Pingo Doce stores charge shoppers two cents a bag.

The environmentalists say when free plastic bags are distributed, the discarded bags clog landfills, litter streets and too often enter Portuguese waters, where they are mistaken for food and swallowed by animals that die as a result.

Beach cleanups along the Portuguese coast net large amounts of plastic bag waste such as the 200 kilograms (440 pounds) gathered in March 2011 in a joint effort of U.S. Embassy volunteers, in coordination with Câmara Municipal de Cascais, Câmara Municipal de Oeiras, and Surfrider Foundation Europe.

About Quercus
Portugal's Quercus - National Association for Conservation of Nature, was founded on 31 October 1985. It is an independent, nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization and consists of citizens who gathered around the same interest for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and Environmental Protection in general, from a perspective of sustainable development.

The Association is called QUERCUS, because they are the oaks, the oaks and oak (whose common name is in Latin: Quercus ) trees characteristic of more evolved forest ecosystems covering our country pf Portugal and which remain at present only very degraded relics. Since its founding, QUERCUS has come to occupy a place in Portuguese society with both irreverent and constructive defense of the multiple causes of nature and the environment.

One of the characteristics of Quercus is its decentralization. In fact, there are regional Centers of QUERCUS scattered all over the country, including the autonomous regions of Azores and Madeira. In 1992, the Association received the Global 500 Award of the United Nations and the title of honorary member of the Order of Infante D. Henry, assigned by the President of the Republic, Dr. Mario Soares.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.

Cover photo: Seven Cities Lagoon, Belvedere View of the King, Seven Cities, Ponta Delgada, São Miguel Island, Azores. Author: José Luís Ávila Silveira/Pedro Noronha e Costa. Courtesy: Wikipedia.