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Rogerson queried on favouring biodegrable over plastic bags

Defra’s intention to exempt biodegradable bags from its 5p single-use carrier bag levy has been called into question by the Environmental Audit Committee.

At the first public evidence hearing on plastic bags in parliament, Zac Goldsmith (Con) told resource minister Dan Rogerson: “We’ve had a lot of submissions from recyclers who are warning us that the exempting of biodegradable plastics will end up contaminating recyclable plastics and recyclable streams.”

Rogerson said he was keen to hear more from the industry in Defra’s call for evidence.

He added: “If we are to have an exemption, which is our intention to stimulate a new industry of bags, which are biodegradable, we have to be sure we have got the criteria right on those.

“For example, at the moment, it is fair to say that I cannot see a product on the market that would meet the aspirations that we would have for that exemption.”

But he said the exemption was something Defra had made provisions for and that biodegradable bags are “better” than single-use plastic bags.

His comments follow a row in the plastics industry over the suitability of biodegradable bags in the recycling stream.

Rogerson also cited issues with clear labelling and a Defra spokesperson said the department was searching for proposals on better separation techniques.

Goldsmith also asked the minister: “Do you not have a slight concern that that we are over-complicating something which actually has worked effectively in a much simpler form in other parts (Wales)?”

A 5p charge is already successfully levied in Northern Ireland and Wales, and a similar charge will be introduced in Scotland in October 2014.

Rogerson said he expected single-use carrier bag usage in England to reduce by 60-80% but did not give a timeframe for when this would be achieved.

He said success would be measured by amount of plastic bags in circulation.

Small retailers with fewer than 250 employers will be exempt from the charge. When asked about this exemption, Rogerson said that the Government did not want to increase burdens on small businesses.

Questions from the panel suggested that SME’s are torn between wanting to be exempt and wanting to be included in the legislation.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Good to see that representations to the Committee had been taken on board.
    Agree that DEFRA are over complicating matters. DEFRA's own research came out positively for single use carrier bags. If DEFRA want to reduce use, then tax them - but there is no need for the 'bio exemption'.

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