The plastic bag tax will disappear – that’s how it came about

The plastic bag tax will disappear thats how it

At the beginning of next year, the much debated plastic bag tax will be abolished.

The Liberals’ climate and environment minister is trying to swear off the tax, but the party was in fact the driving force when it was negotiated within the January agreement.

– It was a way to find money for other investments, says a party leader in the Liberals.

– This is not an issue that I am very committed to. This is not the issue that I get started on the most. It is not a large tax revenue for society, nor is it perhaps the biggest question of principle if one should look at how a tax system should develop.

It is May 10, 2022. Mikael Damberg (S), then Minister of Finance, has been summoned to the Riksdag to debate the issue of the plastic bag tax.

It is an uncommitted social democratic finance minister who hustled his way from the Ministry of Finance to the Riksdag chamber to once again thresh the plastic bag tax.

The moderates and the Sweden Democrats are deeply critical. Mikael Damberg, who was Minister of the Interior when the plastic bag tax was introduced, finds it difficult to justify why a tax on plastic carrier bags should be taxed.

– I have understood that some parties here make this a very big issue, I have a little difficulty understanding it, he says.

Now the tax is to be abolished and, like Mikael Damberg, the parties that introduced the tax, apart from the Green Party, find it difficult to defend it.

full screen Mikael Damberg, former interior minister in the government that introduced the tax. Photo: Björn Lindahl

Brought forward by the Liberals in negotiations

The fall after the 2018 election was hectic, to say the least. The election results did not give a clear winner, but Stefan Löfven (S) nevertheless manages to retain power by breaking up the alliance.

He does this by entering into agreements with the Green Party, the Liberals and the Center Party.

The negotiations were many and long. In the end, the January agreement was signed; a 16-page document with 73 reform points.

In point five, a green tax exchange of at least SEK 15 billion is promised, where increased environmental taxes are exchanged for reduced taxes on jobs and entrepreneurship.

One of the taxes being introduced will, somewhat unexpectedly, become a big talking point and a target for the opposition in criticism of the government’s policies.

When the plastic bag tax sees the light of day, it is estimated to bring in just over 2 billion to the state treasury. It is money that will be used to finance promises in the January agreement.

The industry organization Swedish Trade is falling apart. The Sweden Democrats and the Moderates are hooking up.

The then Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson (S), like Mikael Damberg a couple of years later, had to defend the tax in parliamentary debates.

– The tax is part of the government’s work to achieve Sweden’s environmental goals and the EU’s consumption goals for plastic carrier bags, said Magdalena Andersson in February 2021, noticeably uninvolved with the issue.

Despite that, she calls the tax “a success”.

– The purpose was to reduce single-use plastic bags that you buy in the store, and it seems to have been fulfilled.

full screen Romina Pourmohktari, Minister of Climate and Environment. Photo: Robin Lorentz Allard

The minister: “Allegedly the Liberals pushed it through”

However, after the change of government last autumn, the moderates’ newly appointed Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson chose to keep the tax. At least for a while.

When the tax is now to be abolished in November next year, just over four years after its acquisition, questions have once again arisen about who actually pushed to get the tax in place.

Climate and Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari (L) has chosen to question the image that the Liberals were pushing for the tax.

– It is alleged that the Liberals pushed it through, the minister replies SVT’s question about why L abolishes a tax that was pushed to be brought in.

But according to people in several parties within the January agreement who were involved in the negotiations, it was precisely the Liberals who struck a blow to introduce the plastic bag tax.

– When we had a lot of proposals for spending, we thought about income and then we found the tax, says a person who was involved in negotiating on behalf of the Liberals but who wants to remain anonymous.

“Part of its funding”

Another person at the negotiating table says the Liberals presented the tax as part of the green tax shift to fund tax cuts.

– Various proposals were submitted and the Liberals had it as part of their funding, says the person.

– The Liberals were quite happy with that solution. They said investing in the school was more important than having cheap plastic bags, the person continues.

In the budget motions for 2019, i.e. the year before the tax is introduced, proposals for a plastic bag tax are included by several parties. The Center Party wants to introduce the tax, as does the Green Party. The Christian Democrats are also promoting a tax on plastic carrier bags.

And then the Liberals.

“By making it more expensive to buy carrier bags made of fossil plastic, we hope to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags for everyday shopping, which would be beneficial for the environment,” reads the Liberals’ budget motion.

“The Liberals propose that a tax on plastic bags be introduced, which leads to the state’s finances being strengthened by SEK 300 million for the year 2018 under income title 1411 Value added tax, household, and by SEK 1,200 million under income title 1450 Other taxes on energy and the environment,” it says further in the party’s budget proposal.

But the idea of ​​the plastic bag tax existed earlier than that. A so-called plastic fee on plastic bags to reduce littering was included in the Liberals’ election manifesto in 2018. The party thus went to the polls on the issue.

Another person who sat at the negotiating table when the January agreement was being negotiated says that the Liberals’ proposal became the basis for the negotiations, but that the plastic bag tax did not create any major debate between the parties within the January agreement.

Another negotiator says the plastic bag tax was “a non-issue” that simply went through because the parties agreed it was a good way to cover spending in the upcoming budget.

– It was not a question that was forced.

full screen Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Trying to hand over the responsibility to the previous government

In April 2019, a couple of months after the January agreement was signed, Tina Acketoft, former Member of Parliament for the Liberals, writes a debate article in the Alting where she makes it clear that her party wants to see a green tax change – and here the plastic bag tax appears again.

Now with a sharper emphasis on the party driving the issue.

“Some of the environmental and climate taxes that we are pushing for are a reverse green car bonus, the basic idea of ​​which is that cars that are not green cars receive an increased vehicle tax, a leakage tax in agriculture to reduce the use of artificial fertilizers that contribute to the eutrophication of our waters, and a plastic bag tax”, writes Tina Acketoft.

But after only one year of the tax, the Liberals turned around and demanded that it be abolished.

In the party’s shadow budget for the election year 2022, they attack the S-led government about the plastic bag tax that they themselves negotiated.

“The tax on plastic bags that the government has introduced is a failure,” the Liberals wrote in their budget.

The setting was different when L sat at the negotiating table with S, MP and C during the winter of 2018 to design the January agreement.

– The list of funding was drawn up by vacuuming our previous shadow budgets, says a party leader in the Liberals.

– We did not push the plastic bag tax for reasons of principle, it was a way to find money for other investments.

FACTS The plastic bag tax – effects

The EU has a target of a maximum of 40 plastic bags per person from the year 2025. In 2019, the year before the plastic bag tax was introduced, consumption in Sweden was 74 plastic bags per person per year.

Last year, the corresponding use was 17 bags. However, the use of other types of bags has increased, including paper bags.

Source: TT

Read more