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No formal plastic bag target set for stores

Supermarkets have not been set a formal target to slash the number of plastic carrier bags they give to customers by 70% by next spring, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

A Defra spokeswoman said: When Joan Ruddock (Environment Minister) spoke to the Courtauld meeting this week she was not setting or announcing a formal target, but she did cite 70% as a ball park figure because we need to be ambitious. The recent 80% cut in carrier bag use by M&S shows what can be achieved.

Speaking at the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) press conference on Courtauld Commitment achievements on July 28, Joan Ruddock said the Climate Change Bill is likely to receive Royal Assent in the autumn which will include mandatory charging for plastic bags. The Government announced in the Waste Strategy in May 2007 that it wanted to phase out single-use carrier bags. The Government hopes to change consumer behaviour by cutting the number of bags they use and reducing their environmental impact.

A Defra spokeswoman said: Whatever a carrier bag is made of, using it once and discarding it is unacceptable. Single-use bags are a visible symbol of throwaway society and the Government is committed to changing this. Thinking about how we use carrier bags can have a positive knock on effect to other kinds of behaviour.

In this year's Budget the Government announced legislation to impose a charge on single-use carrier bags from 2009 if retailers have not made sufficient progress towards cutting numbers by the end of the year. This charge will apply whether bags are paper or plastic. Substituting plastic bags with paper ones would result in higher environmental impacts. Paper bags come from a renewable resource, but they require more energy to produce, transport and recycle than plastic bags.

But oxo-biodegradable plastics company Symphony has criticised Government calls for charging on plastic bags. Chief executive Michael Laurier said: Charging for carrier bags is all very well, but there will still be large numbers of carrier bags, garbage sacks, bin liners, food packaging, and other plastic products supplied to the public. Many of these will escape collection and end up in the environment where they could accumulate for decades.

Recycling sounds like a good solution, but recycled plastic is not degradable.

Previous story, Plastic bag charge to be made compulsory, 29/07/08

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