The Climate Change Bill has given the Government powers to charge for single use carrier bags but the British Retail Consortium (BRC) is still opposed to compulsory charging.
The Bill has now gained Royal Assent and the Government can take action if they wish to do so to make supermarkets charge customers for single use bags, made of plastic or paper.
If retailers do not meet their 2007 commitment to reduce the environmental impact of bags by 25% by the end of this year, the Government may make provision by regulations about charging by sellers of goods for the supply of single use carrier bags.
Marks & Spencer has already introduced charging for bags but stores such as Asda, Tesco and Sainsburys refuse to charge customers.
BRC spokesman Richard Dodd said: We are opposed to compulsory charging. Retailers have already made a new voluntary commitment to make a 50% reduction in the number of bags used by spring of next year as an alternative to legislation.
We believe that this ambitious target will be a more effective way to reduce bag usage than charging. Retailers have the best knowledge to achieve targets and know their own customers to achieve their desired results.
Liberal Party MSP Mike Pringle has been campaigning for a plastic bag ban in Scotland. He welcomed the Governments move to include a clause about charges for single use bags. Pringle said: The term single use bags include paper bags and the paper bag lobby were pushing not to be included in this. But at least we are moving forward with this. It does talk about charges for single use bags but not how much those charges should be.
Pringle also said he will be pushing ministers in Scotland to introduce a similar schedule in the Scottish Climate Change Bill. He said: It is all too slow for me. We need to push it on a bit for people to take it up.
The Bill also sets out fixed monetary penalties for those who breach the regulations. It states: regulations may grant an administrator to issue fixed penalty notices not exceeding £5,000 to any person who breaches the regulations.
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman said: We cannot say what the charges will be because we have no legislation.
We are pleased with the progress they [retailers] have made and we are happy with their approach and they should be congratulated. We have to wait until the end of the year to see if they have met their commitments.
Environment Minister, Jane Kennedy, said: The Government remains fully committed to reducing single use carrier bags and we congratulate retailers for their work on a voluntary approach that is already achieving big reductions, which is an excellent step in the right direction. However, the option of introducing charging for single use bags in the future through the Climate Change Bill is still under consideration.
Image: Plastic bags