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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Luzhkov Declares War on Plastic Bags

MTShoppers walking on a Moscow street Thursday. City Hall wants stores to stock only biodegradable bags by 2012.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov wants supermarkets to stop giving away environmentally unfriendly plastic bags and to instead start charging customers for new biodegradable bags — and give any profits to charity.

City officials unveiled a program Thursday that aims to replace plastic bags with biodegradable ones by 2012.

The program was drafted by the NKO-Servis company on Luzhkov’s orders and will be discussed by City Hall next month, company spokesman Yevgeny Rapoport said.

“An ordinary plastic bag decomposes over 200 years, which pollutes nature,” Rapoport told The Moscow Times. “The new bags will look the same but will take from six to 12 months to decompose.”

NKO-Servis is a company that carries out nonprofit social and environmental projects.

The program will urge stores to start selling biodegradable bags instead of offering free ordinary plastic bags and to donate profits from the sales to charity, Rapoport said at a news conference titled “Moscow Declares War on Plastic Bags.”

The program would help the city completely halt production and distribution of nondegradable plastic bags in the city by 2012, Rapoport said.

The production of the new bags would create jobs for the disabled, he said.

“This is a very useful enterprise that would help reduce the burden on nature, create jobs for the disabled and help charity,” State Duma Deputy Oleg Smolin said at the news conference.

Representatives from several major supermarket chains, including X5 Retail Group, Sedmoi Kontinent and Billa, voiced strong support for the program at the news conference, saying they would look for ways to replace the bags in their stores with biodegradable ones. Many of their supermarkets already charge customers for ordinary plastic bags.

Sedmoi Kontinent started thinking about ways to introduce alternative bags three years ago, spokeswoman Vlada Baranova said. About six months ago, it started selling linen bags for 90 rubles ($3) each.

But the move resulted in “a gigantic outflow of customers” who left “many negative reviews” on Internet forums, she said.

Stores and customers alike will have to make a conscious decision to embrace the change to biodegradable bags if it is to work, said Vyacheslav Kholodkov, deputy head of the City Hall’s natural resources department.

Vladimir Mikhailov, a spokesman for a Moscow-based company that produces biodegradable plastic bags, Poli Pak Servis, said his company had the capacity to “provide the whole of Moscow and the Moscow region” with such bags, but there was no demand for them.