Time to tax plastic carrier bags?

By Laura Brown - 29 Jul 2011 17:57:0 GMT
Time to tax plastic carrier bags?

Environmentalists and conservationists are calling for a tax on plastic carrier bags as their use increased by 300 million for the first time in five years.

In 2006 the campaign began to reduce the number of plastic bags handed out in supermarkets and shops because of the damage they do to the environment and wildlife. Initially, buoyed by publicity and support from high-profile retailers like Marks and Spencer who levied a tax on each bag, the numbers used dropped dramatically by 40%.

However figures released mapping the number of plastic bags used between 2009 and 2010 showed an increase of almost 300 million, a 5% increase.

Recycling Minister Lord Henley has put responsibility at the door of the supermarkets. "This isn't good enough. Retailers need to take responsibility and lift their game to cut down on the number of single use carrier bags they hand out. If results do not improve we will consider additional measures to make this happen, including legislation," he said.

The increase in the number of carrier bags handed out includes plastic bags, bags for life as well as cotton and jute bags. Analysts suggest more people may be buying reusable bags but still need single bags. Yet they also suggest the campaign to cut the impact of plastic bags on little and waste is waning and also suggest the recession may be responsible.

Richard Harrington of the Marine Conservation Society said, "We are disappointed to see that plastic bag use is on the rise, despite the publicity around the harm bags cause.

Retailers need a strong government lead to discourage them from giving shoppers free plastic bags, and until that lead is given, bags will continue to be manufactured and handed out in shops for just one use, before being discarded and causing a hazard to wildlife."

Ministers have suggested England and Scotland may follow in the path of Wales which introduced a mandatory 5p charge for plastic bags.

John Griffiths, the Welsh Environment Minister, said only a carrier bag tax will force the trend to fall.

"These figures show a real difference between carrier bag use in Wales and that in other parts of the UK where no mandatory charge is planned.

This proves that the carrier bag charge, which is due to be introduced in Wales on 1 October, is the only way to ensure a real and lasting reduction in the use of carrier bags.

They know about the environmental and litter issues associated with carrier bags and they know that from October they will have to remember to reuse their bags to avoid a 5p charge. The charge is also encouraging Welsh shoppers to get into the habit of taking their own bags with them when they go shopping."

Top Image Credit: © Oleksii Sergieiev

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