Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Call for levy on single-use bags

In Wales, where a 5p charge was introduced last October, the amount of single-use bags being taken home has fallen significantly

A levy on single-use plastic bags should be introduced in England, environmental groups have urged.

The call comes after the latest figures showed the number of carrier bags being given out by supermarkets rose by more than 5% last year across the UK, the second consecutive annual rise.

According to figures from the waste reduction body Wrap, supermarket customers used almost eight billion carrier bags in 2011, a 5.4% rise on the 7.6 billion in 2010, with each person using an average of almost 11 a month.

But in Wales, where a 5p charge was introduced last October, the amount of single-use bags being taken home has fallen significantly.

England is the only part of the UK which has no plans for a plastic bag charge, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Surfers Against Sewage are calling for one to be brought in.

The organisations say plastic bags end up littering England's streets, countryside and beaches, while in the sea they can entangle or be swallowed by wildlife.

Most plastic takes an estimated 450 to 1,000 years to degrade at sea, but plastic may never fully degrade but simply break down into smaller and smaller pieces - eventually forming plastic dust, the environmental groups said.

Samantha Harding, CPRE "stop the drop" campaign manager, said bag levies had been shown to work in Wales and in Ireland, where plastic bag use fell by 90% following the introduction of a charge.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "We want to work with retailers to help them lift their game to cut the number of bags they hand out.

"We are monitoring the results of the charging scheme in Wales and the outcome of the Scottish consultation on a charge."

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