Experts will recommend by October whether biodegradable bags should be exempt from the upcoming carrier levy, amid renewed concerns over the proposal from the plastics industry.
Resource minister Dan Rogerson said industry members, academics and representatives of the compostable sector who are conducting a review on the biodegradable bag market will report to Parliament by 5 October.
They are assessing whether there is an appropriate industry standard for an exemption from the charge and, if so, how it would be implemented.
Defra will use the information to assess whether to include such exemption in the regulations introducing a 5p charge on single-use plastics bags, which will come into force in October.
The British Plastics Federation (BPF) has renewed its concerns the exemption would have “unintended consequences”.
It claims the move will increase the amount of biodegradable materials in the waste stream, which will contaminate plastics recyclate and discourage recycling.
“There is already evidence that recycled plastic is being replaced by virgin polymer in certain applications because of the fear that biodegradable content could undermine the integrity of products made using recycled polymers,” said Roger Baynham, chair of the BPF’s recycling group.
He also noted introducing the exemption would be against the recommendation of the Environmental Audit Committee.
The Environmental Services Association (ESA) said it supported the view of plastics recyclers.
Jacob Hayler, executive director at the ESA, said: “Unless we can be sure that such bags will not end up in the plastics recycling route, which is very difficult indeed, the bags will undermine confidence in recycled plastics, but also risk getting stuck in sorting equipment at MRFs in the same way as plastic bags.
“A simple system that encourages reusable bags, and ideally also recycled content, would be much better.”
The oxo-biodegradable association maintains their products do not contaminate the waste stream.