The London Assembly has published a report calling on the Government to introduce a national levy on all single use throw-away shopping bags to reduce waste in England. In a report entitled Bag to Basics, The London Assembly Environment Committee proposes that a national levy is a more effective way than a national ban to cut the number of bags issued by retailers. Speaking to MRW Environment Committee chair Darren Johnson said: While the proposal for a London solution is a laudable one ideally the Government should be backing national legislation and we think a levy is the most effective way of doing that. It has proved dramatically successful in reducing plastic bags in Ireland by 94% and it has changed peoples habits virtually overnight. People get used to reusing the reusable shopping bags again and again. The committee called for the immediate revision of the voluntary agreement between retailers, Government and Waste & Resources Action Programme to reduce the environmental impact of carrier bag usage as it found that some supermarkets had already exceeded their 25% target to reduce the environmental impact of their bags. It suggests new reduction targets should build on the success of major food retailers and proposes a 75% reduction in bags issued by 2010 by all major food retailers. Bag to Basics also highlights the fact that the number of paper bags in Ireland increased when the levy was introduced in 2002. Johnson adds: We are calling for a national levy to include any type of single use carrier bag, so it will include paper bags. Hopefully there will be a change of heart from the Government and they will go down the legislative route. I think it is a good symbolic issue as well as being a real problem that needs tackling. It is also symbolic of the wider waste recycling agenda. The experience in Ireland shows that once you get people thinking about this issue you get people thinking about reducing their waste in general. The report follows moves by the London Councils who presented a Bill to Parliament last month (November 2007) to ban the distribution of plastic bags in London. London Councils executive member for sustainability, Councillor Sean Brennan said: As the instigators of the Bill to ban the distribution of free throw away shopping bags in the capital, London Councils welcomes the Assemblys moves to further reduce plastic bags use across the country. Council leaders believe that a ban is the most effective way of reducing plastic bag use in the capital. A levy is something only the Government could implement on a national scale. Image: Darren Johnson, Chair of Environment Committee with plastic bags.