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Retailers divided on plastics bag levy costs

Complying with the upcoming plastic bag charge will cost businesses up to £4m, a supermarket told Defra, while Welsh retailers said they had experienced relatively low costs when a similar measure was introduced west of the border.

The observations are included in a summary of the responses to a Defra’s call for evidence on the levy, which took place between November and December last year.

Some 185 respondents sent their views (file, right), with 18 businesses providing feedback on the possible costs associated to the introduction of the levy.

An unnamed supermarket estimated that complying with the charge in England would cost around £4m to update checkout facilities and change information provided to customers. It called for businesses to be able to reclaim such costs from the charge.

A large online grocery retailer said that, under its current system, it now know how many bags were used to fulfil each order so changes were needed - but it did not provide an estimate for the costs of doing so.

However, large retailers operating in Wales stated that the cost of complying with the charge there had been relatively low after initial training and communications.

Wales introduced a 5p charge on single-use carrier bags on 1 October 2011.

Alongside formal responses to the call for evidence, Defra also received over 2,000 emails mainly as part of campaigns by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Marine Conservation Society and partners, and Surfers Against Sewage.

“The concerns raised in these emails centred around the focussed nature of the call for evidence and the lack of opportunity to comment on some of the main elements of the scheme - paper bags exclusion, small business exemption and the biodegradable bag exemption,” said Defra.

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