For members


Sweden set to tax plastic carrier bags – here’s how much you’ll have to pay

A new tax on plastic carrier bags could see your Swedish grocery bill increase sharply.

Sweden set to tax plastic carrier bags – here's how much you'll have to pay
Swedish grocery bags today cost around two to three kronor. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

In order to get to grips with increasing plastic waste, the government has proposed a new tax which could double the price of standard single-use plastic carrier bags offered at supermarket checkouts.

The bags, which usually cost between two and three kronor in the store, will get slapped with a three-kronor tax according to the proposal – which could bring the customer's cost to around five kronor ($0.52).

Lightweight transparent plastic bags, which are handed out for free in grocery stores and used to pack fruit and vegetables, for example, will get a 0.30 kronor – or 30 öre – tax.

The tax would be paid by those who import or produce the bags. But according to the proposal, the cost is expected to be passed on to consumers to the tune of 3.1 billion kronor a year, or 310 kronor per person.

However, if the target for reduced use of plastic bags is met, the cost for the individual consumer would instead fall to 175 kronor a year, according to the government proposal, outlined in Swedish here.

Multiple-use bags usually have a greater impact on the environment at the time of production than single-use bags, with cotton bags needing to be reused 130-400 times to compensate, according to the agency. But the proposal still finds that reduced use of plastic bags will be good for the environment and lead to less littering.

Swedish plastic carrier bags are fairly sturdy and are often used as bin bags in households after they've served their time, whenever they are not reused for a grocery run or for wrapping a lunch box to take to work.

But Swedes still use 770 million plastic bags measuring 15-50 micrometres in thickness per year – the standard carrier bags you get at the checkout counter in supermarkets or alcohol chain Systembolaget – according to a report by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency in 2016.

The proposal is part of Sweden's cross-bloc budget proposal, worked out by the ruling Social Democrat-Green coalition in collaboration with the Centre and Liberal parties. It has been referred to Sweden's Council on Legislation for consultation. If it goes ahead it is expected to come into force on May 1st, 2020.

Member comments

  1. Currently visiting the USA. All seems a bit pointless when you go to the local Walmart here and walk out with 20 items in 10 bags…

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For members


Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

Have you ever wondered what to do with your private pension plan when moving to another European country?

Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you're moving country

This question will probably have caused some headaches. Fortunately a new private pension product meant to make things easier should soon become available under a new EU regulation that came into effect this week. 

The new pan-European personal pension product (PEPP) will allow savers to take their private pension with them if they move within the European Union.

EU rules so far allowed the aggregation of state pensions and the possibility to carry across borders occupational pensions, which are paid by employers. But the market of private pensions remained fragmented.

The new product is expected to benefit especially young people, who tend to move more frequently across borders, and the self-employed, who might not be covered by other pension schemes. 

According to a survey conducted in 16 countries by Insurance Europe, the organisation representing insurers in Brussels, 38 percent of Europeans do not save for retirement, with a proportion as high as 60 percent in Finland, 57 percent in Spain, 56 percent in France and 55 percent in Italy. 

The groups least likely to have a pension plan are women (42% versus 34% of men), unemployed people (67%), self-employed and part-time workers in the private sector (38%), divorced and singles (44% and 43% respectively), and 18-35 year olds (40%).

“As a complement to public pensions, PEPP caters for the needs of today’s younger generation and allows people to better plan and make provisions for the future,” EU Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness said on March 22nd, when new EU rules came into effect. 

The scheme will also allow savers to sign up to a personal pension plan offered by a provider based in another EU country.

Who can sign up?

Under the EU regulation, anyone can sign up to a pan-European personal pension, regardless of their nationality or employment status. 

The scheme is open to people who are employed part-time or full-time, self-employed, in any form of “modern employment”, unemployed or in education. 

The condition is that they are resident in a country of the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein (the European Economic Area). The PEPP will not be available outside these countries, for instance in Switzerland. 

How does it work?

PEPP providers can offer a maximum of six investment options, including a basic one that is low-risk and safeguards the amount invested. The basic PEPP is the default option. Its fees are capped at 1 percent of the accumulated capital per year.

People who move to another EU country can continue to contribute to the same PEPP. Whenever a consumer changes the country of residence, the provider will open a new sub-account for that country. If the provider cannot offer such option, savers have the right to switch provider free of charge.  

As pension products are taxed differently in each state, the applicable taxation will be that of the country of residence and possible tax incentives will only apply to the relevant sub-account. 

Savers who move residence outside the EU cannot continue saving on their PEPP, but they can resume contributions if they return. They would also need to ask advice about the consequences of the move on the way their savings are taxed. 

Pensions can then be paid out in a different location from where the product was purchased. 

Where to start?

Pan-European personal pension products can be offered by authorised banks, insurance companies, pension funds and wealth management firms. 

They are regulated products that can be sold to consumers only after being approved by supervisory authorities. 

As the legislation came into effect this week, only now eligible providers can submit the application for the authorisation of their products. National authorities have then three months to make a decision. So it will still take some time before PEPPs become available on the market. 

When this will happen, the products and their features will be listed in the public register of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA). 

For more information: 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.