Major retailers have pledged to cut consumption by 25% by 2008, with PIFA, which represents producers and distributors of retail carriers commending the move.
PIFA chief executive David Tyson said: It may surprise some people that manufacturers and suppliers of plastic carrier bags are party to this agreement but in fact we were the first to draft a voluntary code some time ago. We welcome open, science-based debate about the relative merits of different carrier bag material.
This has shown that 80% of households re-use their plastic carriers and it has also exposed the myth that paper is better for the environment when in fact, if measured by full life cycle analysis, it has far greater environmental impacts.
The organisation has also been the principal industry body on the panel of retailers and waste experts which has worked with Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw and his team to secure the new voluntary code.
It revealed evidence last year that taxing plastic bags in the Republic of Ireland brought serious unintended negative environmental impacts not least through a switch to paper by retailers and an overall increase in plastic bags as consumers need to buy more bin liners.
It is quite clear that when you examine the science rather than the environmental spin, the humble plastic carrier bag is the best environmental option we can make, we just need to use it wisely and keep on using it.
For example, we are wholly supportive of switching to bags for life indeed our industry invented them. We are also strong advocates of reduce, re-use and recycle. So we urge shoppers to only use the bags they need, re-use them for everything from bin liners to school lunches and, if they still have some clean bags left, get them back to the recycle bins, added Tyson.
He added that with so many supermarkets now offering facilities, these bags can then be recycled into park benches, litter bins, refuse sacks and recycling bags.