Plastic bag manufacturers may have to fire staff

Plastic bag producers have raised their voice about the “damaging effects” that the government’s green tax on plastic bags has had on the industry – with some admitting they may have to lay off staff.

On February 15, the government approved a green tax reform that upped the price of plastic bags to 10 cents and did away with so-called ‘light’ plastic bags.

While environment minister Jorge Moreira da Silva has said he is overjoyed by the results, plastic bag producers have revealed the difficulties they are suddenly experiencing.

“I will probably have to lay off workers,” Paulo Almeida, general-director of Plasgal, told Lusa news agency, adding that the new law has had a “strongly negative impact” on his industry.

Although Plasgal currently employs 120 people, this number may have to drop to 90 in the next three months, says Almeida.

A solution could be “to increase exports from 7% to 25%” – but whether this can be done remains to be seen.

“We told the minister many times about the impact this (tax) would have,” he said, stressing that the European Union recommends “gradually lowering” the number of plastic bags per citizen to 90 by 2020.

“In Portugal, it is 35 per citizen. The decision was made in December and implemented in February,” he said, accusing the government of not giving producers time to adapt to the changes.

Amaro Reis, general-director of Sacos 88, is equally indignant, calling the new law “armed robbery”.

“They made a law that didn’t give companies any time. It was only to make money,” he said, adding that it didn’t even allow companies the leeway to use their stock of ‘light’ plastic bags.

In order to combat the blow, Reis also says he will have to double exports.

He added that he will do “everything” to keep his 65 employees as they did “not deserve” what the government has done to the industry.

As widely reported, the government expects its new bag tax to bring an extra €34.4 million into state coffers.

The tax was prompted by an EC ruling that sets out to restrict the sale of bags with a thickness of less than 0.05 millimetres.

Data shows that almost 100 billion plastic bags are used in Europe per year – an average of 198 per person.

By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]