Danish supermarket tries new tactic to cut plastic bags

Supermarket Netto says that introducing a refundable charge on plastic carrier bags in 42 of its stores has reduced the amount bought by customers.

Danish supermarket tries new tactic to cut plastic bags
File photo: Bax Lindhardt/Ritzau Scanpix

The scheme, which works similar to the Danish pant system for returning bottles for recycling, adds an extra charge for the purchase of plastic bags, which can be refunded if the bags are later returned.

Netto tried out the carrier bag system at 42 of its stores on the island of Funen.

The ‘pant’ system for the plastic bags means they are charged at 50 øre (7 euro cents) more than the normal charge for plastic bags in Netto stores.

After two months trying out the system, fewer customers than expected have returned the refundable bags.

“But the number is increasing strongly. I think it is simply a question of people noticing others in the queue returning a bag,” Netto director Michael Løve told Ritzau.

Løve did not confirm any figures relating to the number of returned carrier bags, but said the Funen stores had sold ten percent fewer plastic bags than during the corresponding period last year.

He also said he did not believe that reduction was due to the slight price increase on the bags.

The trial was introduced in April and will run for another four months.

Netto originally planned to roll out the scheme to more stores after the trial, but that has been put on hold, Løve said.

“I am interested in turning plastic bags into something customers see more as something they have bought, so they are less tempted to use them as bin liners or throw them out. The plastic bag should be perceived the way most people see plastic bottles,” he said.

“We are going to create a version 2.0 of both the bags and the setup. It will have a period of testing before being rolled out to stores. We are discussing different models and will likely be ready to test something by the end of September,” he said.

The new version could be a carrier bag made of a different material, according to the director.

The overall aim of the Netto initiative is to reduce plastic pollution in natural areas. The company has 500 stores in Denmark and 800 in total in Sweden, Germany and Poland.

READ ALSO: Denmark's 'sustainable island' to scrap plastic bags


‘We still have a chance’: Danish minister’s relief after Glasgow climate deal

Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen has expressed relief that a meaningful climate change deal was struck in Glasgow last night, after a last minute move by India and China nearly knocked it off course.

'We still have a chance': Danish minister's relief after Glasgow climate deal
Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen speaks at the announcement of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance in Glasgow on Tuesday. Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

“For the first time ever, coal and fossil fuel subsidies have been mentioned. I’m very, very happy about that,” he told Denmark’s Politiken newspaper. “But I am also very disappointed that the stronger formulations were removed at the last minute.” 

Late on Saturday, the world’s countries agreed the Glasgow Climate Pact, after negotiations dragged on while governments haggled over phasing out coal. 

Denmark is one of the countries leading the phase out of fossil fuels, formally launching the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) with ten other countries and states at the Glasgow summit on Tuesday, announcing an end to oil exploration last December, and committing to phase out coal by 2030 back in 2017. 

Jørgensen conceded that the deal struck on Saturday was nowhere near far-reaching enough to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C, which scientists have estimated is critical to limiting the impacts of climate change, but he said the decision to hold another summit in Egypt next year meant that this goal could still be reached. 

“The big, good news is that we could have closed the door today. If we had followed the rules, we would only have had to update the climate plans in 2025, and the updates would only apply from 2030,” he said, adding that this would be too late. “Now we can fight on as early as next year. This is very rare under the auspices of the UN.” 

Limiting temperature rises to 1.5C was still possible, he said. 

“We have a chance. The framework is in place to make the right decisions. There was a risk that that framework would not be there.” 

Jørgensen said that he had come close to tears when India launched a last-minute bid to water down the language when it came to coal, putting the entire deal at risk. 

“It was all really about to fall to the ground,” he said. “The assessment was that either the Indians got that concession or there was no agreement.” 

Sebastian Mernild, a climate researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, said he was disappointed by the lack of binding targets and global deadlines in the plan, but said it was nonetheless “a step in the right direction”, particularly the requirement that signatories to the Paris Agreement must tighten their 2030 emissions reduction targets by the end of 2022.

“It’s good that this thing with fossil fuels has got in,” he added. “It’s a pity that you don’t have to phase them out, but only reduce.”

He said the test of whether the Glasgow meeting is a success or failure would not come until the various aspects of the plan are approved and implemented by members states.