A government-led investigation will look into ways of reducing the harmful effects of plastic on the environment, and Minister for the Environment Karolina Skog of Sweden's Green Party said she is prepared to take tough measures.
“Once we know more, I'm thinking we will be able to step in with forceful action. That could entail bans in certain sectors, taxes, as well as continuing information campaigns,” Skog said.
The overall waste amount in Sweden declined last year, with each Swede giving rise to 11 kilos less waste than in 2015, according to a recent report from the Swedish Waste Management Association (Avfall Sverige).
But the report also found that the amount of plastic packaging increased by 35 percent. That was partly due to plastic consumption being on the rise because of globalisation, operations manager Karin Eberle of the LL Miljökonsult environment consultancy firm, told Swedish Radio.
“More packaged material has travelled a long way to get here. Consumption of that type of product is going up. But I also think that people are more aware now that they should recycle plastics,” Eberle said.
Swedes use a whopping 770 million plastic bags per year from supermarkets alone, according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket). Unlike France however, Skog does not advocate a ban on plastic carrier bags, but urges consumers to opt for reusable bags instead when possible.
“Plastic bags as we know them is something we could definitely do without,” Skog said.
Sweden already has a deposit scheme in place for most bottles and cans of consumer-ready drinks, and Skog is a firm believer in such schemes. The red-green government is currently considering a proposal for introducing a similar scheme for dairy products and fruit juices.
So, what should consumers do while awaiting the next government initiative?
“Stop throwing rubbish in nature. Swedes walk around thinking that what's being washed up on our beaches comes from other countries. We are sinners, too,” Skog said.