On 31 October 2016, Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, and Juhani Pekkala, Managing Director of the Finnish Commerce Federation signed a Green Deal on actions to restrict the use of plastic carrier bags. This is the first time when an EU directive is implemented by a voluntary agreement instead of a legal instrument.

The agreement is in force for ten years, and the aim is to make sure that Finland reaches the reduction targets for the use of plastic carrier bags in the EU Directive on packaging and packaging waste. By the end of 2025 no more than 40 bags per person should be used. The reduction target concerns all plastic carrier bags in retail outlets, excluding very lightweight bags provided for loose food such as fruit and vegetables and when required for hygiene purposes.

"Voluntary steering instruments - such as this agreement - are hoped to encourage actors in the trade sector to self-regulation. We will see whether innovative actions by the sector itself to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags leads to better solutions to meet the objectives of the directive than what could be achieved by administrative guidance or by adopting an act or a decree", says Minister Tiilikainen.

In the future the EU Member State must report the numbers of plastic carrier bags used on an annual basis. The present estimate for the consumption of plastic carrier bags in Finland is about 55 bags per person. This does not include the very lightweight bags used for e.g. fruit. The consumption of plastic carrier bags in Finland is lower than the estimated average annual consumption in the EU, about 198 bags per person.

It is estimated that 80% of the plastic carrier bags used in Finland are of domestic origin and a third are made of recycled materials. In Finland most of the plastic carrier bags are reused for waste disposal.

Individual stores make a commitment to sustainable development

By the Green Deal the Finnish Commerce Federation gives a commitment extending to 2025 to encourage and guide companies in the trade sector to join the deal on plastic carrier bags, support advisory and information campaigns, monitor the fulfilment of the objectives, and deliver the monitoring data to the Ministry of the Environment.

Companies are free to decide on the measures and how these are to be implemented. The issues to be included in the measures are: advice and information is provided to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags and prevent littering, there is a price for lightweight plastic carrier bags, and very thin plastic carrier bags are no longer available at retail outlets on a self-service basis. 

The commitments of trade sector companies will be attached to the Green Deal and Society's Commitment to Sustainable Development, where the public authorities together with other actors make a commitment to promote sustainable development in their activity.  The commitments are available at sitoumus2050.fi.

"The trade sector wants to contribute to reducing the amount of waste produced and litter in both land and water areas. Green Deal is highly important for the Finnish Commerce Federation and the whole sector. We are very proud to be the first Green Deal partner of the Ministry of the Environment", says Juhani Pekkala, Managing Director of the Finnish Commerce Federation.

The Ministry of the Environment will assess the impact of the measures on reducing the consumption of plastic carrier bags and preventing litter after three years. If the conclusion is that the measures taken have not been effective, the Ministry will consider other means to reduce the consumption of plastic carrier bags. 

Marine litter a major concern

The particular aim of the Green Deal and EU Directive is to reduce marine litter and damages to marine ecosystems caused by plastic waste. Plastic carrier bags are a major problem in terms of marine litter because they decompose slowly and thus persist in the environment for decades or even centuries, usually disintegrated into small particles.

Inquiries:
Ministry of the Environment
Tarja-Riitta Blauberg, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 250 059, tarja-riitta.blauberg(at)ym.fi

Finnish Commerce Federation
Marja Ola, Senior Adviser, Environmental Affairs, tel. +358 50 383 7711, marja.ola(at)kauppa.fi

www.kassi-info.fi

Commitment has been made by (31 Oct):

Kesko Oyj
Timo Jäske, CSR Manager, tel. +358 50 529 2028, timo.jaske(at)kesko.fi

Lidl Suomi Ky
Maija Järvinen, CSR Coordinator, tel. +358 9 2345 6400, media(at)lidl.fi

SOK
Mika Lyytikäinen, Director, tel. +358 10 76 81911, mika.lyytikainen(at)sok.fi

Stockmann Oyj Abp
Johanna Stenbäck, CSR Manager, tel. +358 468 761 529, johanna.stenback(at)stockmann.com

Tokmanni Oy
Joséphine Mickwitz, Head of IR and Communications, tel. +358 400 784 889, josephine.mickwitz(at)tokmanni.fi

www.sitoumus2050