Retailers Hit Out at Complex Plastic Bag Ban in England

 |  Ban Single Use Carrier Bags
Retailers Hit Out at Complex Plastic Bag Ban in England

UK trade association, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has come out fighting against the government’s planned 5p charge on single use plastic bags to cut waste and litter.

 According to the organisation, retailers have expressed serious disappointment that government plan to charge for carrier bags will ignore the advice of the industry and a key Parliamentary committee and press ahead with an overly complex system that will confuse shoppers.

The consortium said that retailers have consistently maintained that plans to charge 5p for carrier bags to cut waste, litter and carbon emissions must be kept simple for the scheme to work. This, it argued, could be achieved simply by adopting the principle of schemes already operating effectively in other parts of the UK.

Controversial Exemptions

The organisation said that exemptions for small retailers and the exclusion paper and biodegradable bags will make it confusing for consumers, as they will be asked to pay for a bag in one shop but not in the shop next door.

The BRC said that its SME retail members have made it clear that they do not want to be exempted.

In regards to exemptions for biodegradable bags, DEFRA has publicly stated that: “The exemption for biodegradable bags will not be included in the legislation until standards for the bags have been finalised. This means the exemption will not come into effect with the legislation for the 5p charge in October 2015.”

The BRC said that the exemption for paper and biodegradable plastic bags makes no environmental sense, and noted that an Environment Agency study found that single use plastic bags have the lowest environmental impact of any type of bag.

The same study was said to have found that a paper bag has to be used at least three times to have less environmental impact than a single use plastic bag.

“A carrier bag charge is already working in Wales and Northern Ireland and will be introduced in Scotland in October and it makes no sense to do something different. Why not use the same scheme and keep it simple and effective?” said a BRC spokesperson.

“We are disappointed that the government has chosen not to listen to the Environment Audit Committee, environment groups and retailers. This is poor regulation that will cause confusion for customers and businesses,” added the spokesperson.

However, Tony Breton, UK strategist for biodrabable plastics firm, Novamont said: “We are very concerned about the potential for lengthy delays to the introduction of an exemption – which cause investment hiatus and could be extremely damaging for the UK’s bioplastics and composting industries."

"The Government should speed up the exemption process by using existing robust standards for compostable plastics, rather than go through the lengthy process of creating new standards for plastics which do not currently exist,” he added.

Source: Waste Management World 17th June 2014

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