The availability of ultra-light plastic bags for primary packaging or transport of bread, fruit, and vegetables is prohibited as of June, but operational difficulties have led distribution companies to ask for the elimination of this prohibition.

The Portuguese Association of Distribution Companies (APED) told Lusa that it sent to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Action, at the end of December 2022, a proposal for the revocation of this ban, “given the absence of an alternative on the market to respond requirements, the absence of Portugal's obligations towards the European Union and the need to ensure the harmonization of legal requirements and free competition within the community”.

The ban stems from a law, published in September 2019, on providing alternatives to the use of ultralight plastic bags and plastic trays at points of sale for bread, fruit, and vegetables. Initially, the bill from the Os Verdes party (PEV), unanimously approved by parliament, provided for banning ultralight bags from June 2020, but the published diploma ended up setting the deadline of June 1, 2023.

The proposed repeal of APED is based on three grounds: the functioning of the single market; food safety and prevention of food waste; biodegradable and compostable alternatives.

“Firstly, the European Union does not impose restrictions on the use of 'very light bags' that are necessary for hygiene reasons or made available as primary packaging for food products sold in bulk, taking into account aspects of food safety and prevention of food waste ”.

Another reason for the repeal, according to the association, is the need to “safeguard the packaging of products at high risk of deterioration or very perishable”, such as blueberries, and controlled atmosphere products, fruits, and vegetables cut in store.

From this ban on selling bakery products, fruit and vegetables packaged in very light plastic bags, and in single-use plastic containers, the law makes an exception for plastic bags and packaging that are proven to be biodegradable and compostable, as long as they are not made available free of charge.

APEAD, regarding biodegradable and compostable alternatives, points out that community legislation provides for the obligation for very light plastic bags to be “compostable in industrial bio-waste treatment units only 24 months after the entry into force of the Community Regulation”.

“This deadline will be important to guarantee the qualification of the current infrastructure for the treatment of biowaste in the country. The European Commission does not recognize biodegradable plastics as an alternative to single-use plastics. The “only balanced solution” is the repeal of the prohibitive article of the 2019 law, says APED, adding that it is “faithful to the constructive posture and openness to dialogue” and that, therefore, it also proposed an alternative wording of the article (4 77/2019), “if a revocation is not possible”.

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