There has been a mixed response from environmental campaigners and the retail industry on the Chancellors proposals to introduce a plastic bag charge.
Alistair Darling said that he would implement legislation to force retailers to introduce plastic bag taxes by 2009 if we have not seen sufficient progress on a voluntary basis.
His views were met with dismay from the retail industry. An Asda spokesman said: We have demonstrated ambitious measures to reduce carrier bag usage and the threat of a levy is just a green gimmick which if implemented will hit the pockets of millions of shoppers.
At a time when consumers are already feeling the pinch, we believe it is better to incentivise them to do the right thing and change the habit of a lifetime, not penalise them by making their weekly shop more expensive.
Sainsburys did not commit on whether they would charge their customers for plastic bag use. The chain said it had already smashed its Courtauld Commitment pledge to reduce its packaging waste by 25% by 2008.
But the Chancellor received overwhelming support from the Campaign to Protect Rural England which was concerned about litter. Head of campaigns Ben Stafford said: With limited signs that a voluntary approach to tackling the blight of plastic bags will work, the Government is right to flag more robust measures through this budget.
Litter is a highly visible problem that suggest a lack of concern for the state of our towns and countryside.
The London Assembly also welcomed the announced plans and said that the scheme worked in Ireland so it could work in the UK.
Money raised by the plastic bag levy would go to environmental charities and the ability to tax them would be contained within the climate change legislation.
However, degradable plastics company, Symphony Environmentals chief executive Michael Laurier criticised the Chancellors plans and said that no exemption from the charge had been offered to biodegradable bags and no incentive has been given for retailers to switch to degradable bags.
But a battle between the Chancellor and the Carrier Bag Consortium (CBC) ensues. The CBC representing carrier bag suppliers, along with the Packaging and Films Association (PAFA) has threatened a legal challenge. PAFA chief executive David Tyson said: Gordon Brown has created his new global villan the plastic bag as a smokescreen to divert attention from the wider issues that our Government should be dealing with.
This is an outrageous diversionary tactic and we are prepared to mount a challenge through the highest courts in Europe.