Last year, a decision from the government to introduce a fee for plastic bags, rather than banning them, raised a lot of attention. It was claimed the public debate around the cost of the bags impacted the results of the last year’s municipal elections. Some even argued the move was the “final straw”. But how much did last year’s “plastic bag tax” bring into state coffers?

At 25 cents for each nylon bag, 15 cents were deposited into the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning. So during the first nine months of the year, 188 million lira were collected by the Ministry.

But while the Ministry has earned vast amounts of money, so have companies and the tax office. Out of every 25 cent, 10 cents were distribute among companies and the Treasury. The amount totaled 125 million lira. In other words, citizens paid 313 million lira during those nine months.

I expect the public cost to reach 420 million lira by the end of the year.

According to data from the Ministry, shopping bag usage has gone down to 22 percent. That means that out of 5 bags, 4 were not used. Needless to say, that is a great success. Yet this cannot hailed a success on the part of the Ministry, rather it is a reaction to the actions of a Ministry that implements ambiguous policies and of a state bent on robbing its citizens.

Still, one of five bags means 1.25 billion bags. So for nine months, 1.25 billion bags were bought from people who were willing to pay 25 cents for a single bag.

1.25 billion bags means 15 bags per person. 20 bags per year – which is too high. None of these are recycled.

Moreover,when the state attempted to cash in on shopping bags instead of banning them, many people turned to grocery bags. Exact figures are not available. All we know is that we now consume as much grocery bags as we did shopping bags in the past. Today, even if less shopping bags can be seen, there are more grocery bags.

With the help of our people who don’t want to spend money on shopping bags, approximately 75 thousand tons of plastic bags were saved from being wasted. But what about other plastic packaging material? Looking at last year’s data, one can establish that two million tons of plastic packaging material were buried within the first nine months of this year.

The Ministry says the collected money is used to source municipalities and their environmental efforts. Yet the 188 million lira that have been collected amounts to very little for the environment. The amount spent by the Bursa Metropolitan Municipality for road maintenance and asphalt is 212.6 million. That means the amount the Ministry set aside for environment is less than what Bursa spent on roads and asphalt.

Our government has forged an industry worth millions of lira from tiny shopping bags. There prevails a group of people that opposes and is large enough to impact election results.

In 2010, a consumer organization of which I am a member, led a campaign entitled “İklim İçin Yeşil File” (Green Nets for Climate) to force municipalities to ban plastic bags.

Let’s appeal to these municipalities again and have plastic bags banned! Let’s get rid of the 25 cent tax and bags altogether.