A panel of MPs has told environment secretary Owen Paterson that a 5p charge on single-use carrier bags in England should be implemented sooner than the current 2015 deadline.
In its Ninth Report of Session 2013–14, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee said the legislation should be brought forward after the success of plastic bag levies in Northern Ireland and Wales.
Supermarkets in Wales reported a drop in use of up to 76% after a charging scheme was brought in two years ago.
A similar charge will be introduced in Scotland in October 2014.
The EFRA Committee report stated: “Reducing the number of single-use carrier bags which are given away is a quick win; reducing both waste and environmental pollution with little effort.”
The committee also encouraged industry to act on Paterson’s call for the development of a suitable biodegradable plastic bag to carry shopping.
In December, resource minister Dan Rogerson was queried on the proposal to exempt biodegradable plastic bags from the levy.
Rogerson admitted that he could not see a biodegradable product on the market “that would meet the aspirations that (Defra) would have for that exemption”.
The committee said currently available biodegradable plastic bags do not fully break down all the particles, which are harmful to the marine environment, a major cause for concern over single-use carrier bags.
The EFRA report stated: “While we would welcome the development of a fully biodegradable shopping bag to replace existing plastic bags, this should not be a condition for the introduction of the charge.”
The report did agree with the proposals that when fully degradable plastic bags are available, they should be exempt from the charge.
Concerns over biodegradable bags sparked a row in the industry last year, after a study commissioned by European Plastics Converters (EuPC) indicated that quantities of degradable plastic films as low as 2% could cause “significant, detrimental impacts” to the quality of plastics recyclates.
- According to EFRA Committee, the Government estimates that in 2012, supermarkets gave out over eight billion single-use carrier bags across the UK, equating to approximately 120 bags per person.