Plastic bag taxes will not reduce usage and distract from the real issues like food waste, car use and junk mail, according to the Packaging and Films Association.
PAFA was responding to the WRAP report published last week that found that single carrier bag use in the last 12 months had increased by 0.3 billion. This bucked the overall downwards trend where single carrier bag usage across the UK has gone down by 40% over the past five years.
The countries that appeared to be responsible for the increase were England and Scotland. Advocates of a plastic bag tax pointed to the impending introduction of a bag tax in Northern Ireland and Wales as proof that they work in raising awareness. Environment minister Lord Henley then threatened legislation if the situation was not addressed.
However, PAFA spokesman Peter Woodall said: “There are more supermarkets in England and Scotland than in Wales and Northern Ireland. They tend to have more local independents than big supermarkets, which are not included in the data.
“To say that Northern Ireland and Wales are more aware because of the impending charges – I don’t think people could be more aware. The only problem is that the information they have is misleading and is in danger of producing more impact.”
Woodall said the slight increase was probably due to shoppers double bagging heavier items as the plastic used for single use bags gets increasingly thin. He said this was still preferable to using heavier gage alternatives or material bags.
He argued that the data collected on bags was flawed in that it counted the number of bags and didn’t factor in their thickness or compare their environmental impact. He said: “We should not be measuring in units but in appropriate lifecycle analysis data. The truth is bags for life are not immediately suitable in the same way as simple plastic HDPE bags.”
Woodall pointed to a life cycle assessment carried out by the Environment Agency that found you have to use a cotton or jute bag 300 or more times before it has impacts as low as a lightweight carrier bag re-used just once as a bin liner.
Woodall added that there are now more than 5,000 plastic bag recycling points at supermarkets.