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EAC’s stance on bag levy attracts diverse responses

A report by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) stating that plans for a 5p plastic bag charge in England would be “unnecessary complicated” has prompted mixed industry responses.

The Industry Council for research on Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) supported the EAC’s conclusion that exemptions for biodegradable and paper bags would confuse shoppers and said that if a charge had to be introduced, it should be applied to all bag types.

However, INCPEN questioned the effectiveness of the measure saying it would do little to reduce littering.

It cited a Keep Britain Tidy’s national litter surveys that suggested that thin carrier bags accounted only for 0.03% of all littered items.

In contrast, Symphony Environmental Technologies, a producer of oxo-biodegradable plastics, said that the Government was right to propose favourable treatment for biodegradable plastics and that the EAC had shown “insufficient cause for its opposition to such treatment”.

But the company argued some types of bags should benefit from a lower charge, not an exemption. This would include bags it described as ‘IDEAL’ - those made with oxo-biodegradable materials with 40% recycled content.

Symphony Environmental Technologies reiterated the difference between oxo-biodegradable and compostable bags, and said there would be no point in exempting the latter because they are tested in special composting conditions and not in the open environment. .

David Newman, director of the Italian Composting Consortium, also defended an exemption for compostable bags.

He said: “Whilst we appreciate the committee’s point that a catch-all charge is the most effective way to reduce total bag usage, it fails to note an exemption for home compostable bags would help significantly reduce food waste going to landfill.”

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