The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is ‘seriously disappointed’ that the Government’s plan to charge for carrier bags has ignored the advice of the retail industry and predicts that the initiative it will create overly complex system that will confuse shoppers.
A five pence charge for single use plastic carrier bags (to cut waste, litter and carbon emissions) is due to be introduced in England on October 1 2015. But the Queen’s Speech on June 4 confirmed the following exemptions to the proposed five pence charge: retailers with 250 employees or fewer; single use carrier bags made from materials other than plastic (eg paper); and biodegradable bags that meet defined criteria (this exemption would be introduced after the charge is in place).
The BRC maintains that the plan to charge 5p for carrier bags must be kept simple for the scheme to work. It says exemptions for small retailers and for carrier bags made from material other than plastic 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’.
Despite the BRC’s call for the charge to apply to all single use carrier bags, the Government has confirmed that the charge will apply only to single use carrier bags made of plastic. The BRC says this makes no environmental sense, citing an Environment Agency study that claims single use bags made of plastic have the lowest environmental impact of any type of bag. The BRC added that the same study 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 five pence charge for single use carrier bags already exists in Wales and Northern Ireland and will be introduced in Scotland on October 20. These charges apply to all single use carrier bags, regardless of material type, and to all retailers, regardless of size.
A BRC spokesperson said: “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? If we are to have regulation, it needs to work for consumers, the environment and retailers. 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.”