Environmental lobbyists call for plastic bag levy

Four leading environmental organisations are calling on the Government to reduce litter and waste by forcing retailers to introduce levies on all single-use bags.

The “Break the Bag Habit” campaign was launched today by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Surfers Against Sewage (SAS).

Over the past two years the number of carrier bags used has increased. Eight billion ‘thin-gauge’ plastic bags were issued during 2011 compared with 7.6bn in 2010, an increase of 5.4%.

Last year businesses in the UK issued plastic bags at a rate of 254 a second and campaigners have pointed out that the growth in plastic bag use is taking place in England because it is the only home nation not to have implemented a single-use bag levy or to be actively seeking one.

CPRE Stop the Drop campaign manager, Samantha Harding, said: “Bag levies have been proven to work in Ireland and Wales. A levy is coming soon to Northern Ireland and Scotland is already consulting on introducing one. Why must the English countryside be the last to benefit from good environmental policies?”

When Ireland introduced a plastic bag levy in 2002, plastic bag use fell by 90% according to the Irish government. In Wales, retailers estimate that usage fell by 70-90%.

Commenting on the issue in 2011, David Cameron said: “Progress overall went backwards last year [2010], and that is unacceptable. Retailers need to do better. I want to see significant falls again. I know that retailers want to do better too but if they don’t I will be asking them to explain why not.”

Conor McGlone

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie