Councils may be forced to impose England's carrier bag charge
Local authorities should be responsible for enforcing the plastic bag charge due to be introduced in England in 2015, according to Defra.
The measure is proposed in Defra's call for evidence into single-use plastic carrier bag charges for England. England will be in line with the rest of the UK when it introduces a 5p charge on plastic carrier bags in October 2015.
In its call for evidence, Defra states: "Given their existing relationships with retailers and consumers, we propose that local authorities should enforce the plastic bag charge.
"Trading Standards Officers (TSOs) could act as the administrator for enforcing the charges, as is the case in Wales and will be the case in Scotland. TSOs are already responsible for enforcing packaging requirements in England, so adding plastic bag enforcement would slipstream in with this current work."
The role of the TSOs would be to investigate non-compliance, including failure to comply with the requirement to charge for bags and providing false or misleading information.
Local Authority Recycling and Advisory Committee vice chair Andrew Bird told edie: "It will be interesting to see how this works. Given the current level of resources local authorities have, I don't know how we are going to enforce this."
Elsewhere, Defra's consultation was welcomed by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), whose chief executive Steve Lee, said: "While we believe that a charge is necessary and that England was at risk of being left behind by not introducing a legislative requirement, this is not a simple issue.
"The parameters of the legislation must be carefully thought through to ensure that the measure delivers genuine environmental gains and the question of biodegradable bags is a particularly challenging issue.
"CIWM welcomes the research that Defra is proposing to fund and we would like to see rigorous material standards and effective sorting solutions to allow this important technology to play its part in reducing the impact of carrier bag litter on the land and marine environments."