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Defra holds off on biodegradable bag charge decision

Defra remains undecided about introducing an exemption for biodegradable plastic bags from the 5p levy after completing a review.

The Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) Order 2015, introduced in October, requires larger retailers to charge at least 5p for each single-use plastic carrier bag, except where exempted.

It required Defra secretary Liz Truss to assess whether an industry standard for biodegradable bags was possible for such exemption.

The review has found there to be a number of standards for plastic bag biodegradability, with Defra saying further work is needed.

“By the end of May 2016, retailers are required to report the number of bags that have been supplied and the uses to which the proceeds of the charge have been put, after reasonable costs are deducted. The Government will use that opportunity to consider the early impacts of the charge.

“The Government will continue to consider the technical specification for a genuinely biodegradable bag, and will at that point further report on how an exemption for such a biodegradable bag can be implemented.”

Major retailer Tesco announced that the number of single-use bags used by customers at its stores in England had reduced by 78% in the first month since the 5p levy was introduced.

It said that customers using the store’s website had also cut the number of bags they used, with ‘bagless’ deliveries increasing by nearly 50%.

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