Lack of English plastic bag levy mystifies campaigners

A plastic bag charge should be introduced in England where figures show that usage rates increased by half a billion last year, according to Welsh Environment Minister John Griffiths.

A 5p levy was adopted a year ago in Wales and has reduced carrier bag usage by up to 96%. In addition, a recent survey shows that around 70% of Welsh people are in favour of the charge, while charities and not-for-profit organisations are benefiting from the fees.

Celebrating the first anniversary of the levy introduction, Griffiths said, “I can see no reason why the charge wouldn’t work just as well in other parts of the UK.”

He added: “One year on from the introduction of our 5p bag charge it is obvious that it has made a real difference to shopping habits of people here in Wales. I think the Welsh experience proves that if you want to effectively reduce carrier bag use, a charge really is the best way to go.”

Surfers against Sewage SAS (SAS) campaign director Andy Cummins told edie he welcomed Griffiths’ support for the campaign.

SAS are part of four groups – Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Keep Britain Tidy, and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) – who have been pushing for the success of the Welsh model through their ‘Break the Bag Habit’ campaign launched in August.

“The Welsh model is a working example of exactly what we want to do. Northern Ireland and Scotland are looking set to introduce a charge yet England stands alone,” said Cummings.

England used eight billion bags last year, and it remains a puzzle to Cummings why the charge is not brought about considering its widespread support.

“It is confusing for the four organisations. We see no reason why the government would not support a charge on plastic bags. The system is supported among many retailers such as Sainsbury’s and ASDA and the public also support it as the Welsh programme would suggest,” he said.

Conor McGlone

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