Despite having one of the most successful waste management systems in continental Europe, Switzerland’s federal parliament has announced it is to ban all ‘single-use’ plastic shopping bags in a bid to set a good example and prevent pollution.
The House of Representatives passed the plastic bag ban, introduced by Dominique de Buman, a member of the lower chamber of the Swiss federal parliament, by voting 110 to 73 in its favour, but not everyone agrees it is a good idea.
Doris Leuthard, the Swiss Environment Minister said the ban was unnecessary due to the fact the Swiss system of garbage disposal currently works well, and members of the KVS Swiss Plastics Industry said, “Switzerland’s waste management system serves as an international example of best practice. It is a bad message to send “that we can’t manage plastic bags”, as we are discrediting ourselves as problem solvers if we have no other solution for plastic bags than to prohibit them.”
With 99% of all Switzerland’s plastic waste recycled or reused for thermal recovery for electricity generation or long-distance heating, the new ban does seem somewhat extreme, but those in favour insist that plastic shopping bags require considerable petroleum and energy to produce, and when burned, as most of Switzerland’s garbage is, dioxins are released into the environment.
Strongly refuting this claim, a spokesperson for KVS said, “Dioxins are compounds with groups containing chlorine, while the polyethylene used to make plastic bags contains no chlorine. Therefore, no dioxin arises in incineration.”
They went on to say the plastic bag ban, “Means setting off a legislative process to regulate a problem that does not exist in Switzerland. The parliament has opened up yet another area where it can patronise citizens and consumers – in this case without any recognisable benefits.”