Plastic bags

Inquiry status:  Report published 6 February 2014, awaiting Government Response

In September 2013, the Government announced that it would introduce in England a levy of 5p on single-use plastic carrier bags in 2015. Small retailers with fewer than 250 employers will be exempt from the charge. The Government has also suggested that it may incentivise the use of biodegradable plastic bags, which might be exempt from the levy. A 5p charge is already levied in Northern Ireland and Wales, and a similar charge will be introduced in Scotland in October 2014.

The European Commission has tabled proposals for member states to reduce their use of ‘lightweight plastic bags’, by introducing measures including taxes and levies, national reduction targets or an outright ban (a change to the existing packaging directive would be needed to allow a ban). If accepted, member states would have two years to implement the proposals.

The Environmental Audit Committee has now published its report looking at the Government’s proposals for introducing a 5p charge for carrier bags in England. The Committee support the aims of the charge which are to cut waste, litter and carbon emissions, but conclude the approach must be kept simple for the scheme to be effective.

Joan Walley MP said:

“Experience from Ireland and Wales shows these schemes are popular and can make a real difference. Before the Government reaches the check-out with this policy, it needs to drop the exemptions and keep it simple to help shoppers do the right thing. This needn’t be difficult– simple schemes in Wales and Ireland have dramatically reduced bag use, and had positive environmental impact. It’s not too late to start listening and to re-think these flawed plans.”



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