By Tony Mayes

If you went to a charity shop would you pay five cents for a second hand plastic bag – or would you demand a new one for the money?

The new plastic bag charge introduced in many countries in Europe is causing a dilemma for charity shops on the Costa and in fact is resulting in the creation of more plastic bags, defeating the object of the exercise.

The problem has been highlighted by Esther Tucker, manager at the Help at Home Costa Blanca charity shop in Playa Flamenca.

For years people have brought in their unwanted and used plastic bags of all shapes and sizes which have been used at the shop counter for customers’ purchases.

But the law now says that shops have to charge at least five cents if a customer wants a bag – but does that apply to recycled bags. No-one seems to know.

Esther commented: “Some people get cross that they have to pay five cents for a used bag. Some ask for a new bag for the five cents and refuse to have a used one. And that means that every so often I have to go out and buy a new stock of plastic bags, completely negating what the new law is trying to achieve which is reducing the manufacture and use of new bags.”

She added the shop now has a large stock of second hand bags which Esther has on occasions has to dispose of – somewhere.

But there is no plastic recycling bin near the charity shop to dispose of the unwanted bags, ironically the only bins close-by are general waste bins and if Esther wants to be environmentally ‘green’ she has to drive to a plastic recycling bin and pollute the atmosphere with car fumes in the process.

The charity’s president, Carmen Perez said she has tried to get clarification from the Town Hall and from lawyers but no-one can give her a definitive answer as to whether a charity shop has to charge five cents for a recycled plastic bag. She would welcome clarification. “Obviously we don’t want to do anything which would involve us breaking the law and facing the prospect of a fine,” she added.

Esther stressed that she still wants people to bring in their unwanted plastic bags – staff have found a new purpose for some of them – stuffing handbags so they look more like new. And it worked – when the handbags were put on sale all fluffed up they shot off the shelves!

At present the charity shop is charging five cents for a used bag and when staff explain why, most understand, but people do question why the law has to be this way.

Perhaps a legal eagle reader can tell us whether or not a charity shop has to charge for a recycled bag.


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