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Plastic bag levy in England under MPs' scrutiny

MPs have launched an inquiry into the sustainability of measures proposed in England to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags.

A levy of 5p on single-use plastic carrier bags from 2015 was announced in September. Retailers with fewer than 250 employers will be exempt from the scheme.

It has been suggested that biodegradable plastic bags might be exempt to try to incentivise their use.

Northern Ireland and Wales already have 5p levies and one is due in Scotland in October 2014.

The Environmental Audit Committee, which has 15 MPs from different parties, will examine:

  • the environmental impacts of the proposed 5p charge in England including the likely change in the number of bags discarded and the impact on the use of biodegradable bags and the impact on plastics recycling
  • any wider environmental or sustainability implications of a possible increased use of natural-fibre ‘bags for life’
  • the relative advantages and disadvantages of the proposed levy rather than a complete ban
  • the exclusion of smaller retailers from the scheme
  • the lessons to be learnt from other countries’ experiences in this area
  • any hygiene impacts or wider health impacts

The committee will begin hearing evidence on 18 December and is inviting written written submissions by 9 December.

Chartered Institution for Wastes Management (CIWM) chief executive Steve Lee said: “While we believe that a charge is necessary and that England was at risk of being left behind by not introducing a legislative requirement, this is not a simple issue.

“The parameters of the legislation must be carefully thought through to ensure that the measure delivers genuine environmental gains and the question of biodegradable bags is a particularly challenging issue.

“CIWM welcomes the research that Defra is proposing to fund and we would like to see rigorous material standards and effective sorting solutions to allow this important technology to play its part in reducing the impact of carrier bag litter on the land and marine environments.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Plastic bags are still plastic bags and what will happen if biodegradable bags end up in plastic film for recycling? The future for mixed plastic bags of any type now is likely to be up the chimney, not discrete recycling.

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