Cyprus introduces ban on free plastic bags in supermarkets
"We aim to ultimately take out 16,000 tons of plastic used to make shopping bags," she said.
By introducing the ban, Cyprus is applying a European Union Directive which should have been put in force six months ago. The EU gave the eastern Mediterranean island a six month reprieve to prepare for the measure.
Panayiotou said that most of the plastic bags taken home by shoppers end up in the sea, where they break up in tiny pieces and become part of the fish diet.
"Plastic ultimately returns into the humans through the consumption of fish," she said.
She added that the campaign will be considered a success if the use of plastic bags was reduced to 90 bags per person per year by the end of 2019.
Shoppers can still use plastic bags by paying five cent plus value added tax for each bag.
"We expect that buying bags will become a budget burden that will lead people to using reusable bags to take home their shopping.
Supermarkets have started selling reusable bags as using paper bags is also considered to be an encroachment on the environment.
"Using paper is not as innocent as it sounds. It means cutting down more trees and pollution with chemicals used to make the paper," Georgios Theopemptou, a Green Party deputy said.
He added that people must be trained to take with them reusable bags when they go out for shopping. ■