Government’s carrier bag charging scheme will harm jobs and won’t help the environment, INCPEN says

INCPEN supports some of the conclusions reached by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC)  in its report published today (6 Feb 2014)  on the 5p charging scheme proposed for carrier bags in England.  The EAC says including exemptions for both paper and biodegradable bags is too complex and unnecessarily confusing for shoppers.

As the EAC report states, the largest and simplest environmental gains from carrier bags are from encouraging shoppers to use fewer bags by re-using them.

INCPEN contends that if there is to be a charge it should apply to all bag types – whether cotton, jute, paper or plastic.

A major study conducted by the Environment Agency showed that all alternatives to the thin plastic carrier bag have a higher environmental impact and that thin plastic bags were an environmentally responsible way for consumers to carry their groceries home. The Government’s own research found that on average 80% of thin bags are already reused – either on further shopping trips or around the house.

What’s worse than ignoring the science or confusing the public is that the proposed exemption for biodegradable plastic bags risks damaging the UK plastics recycling industry.

Where INCPEN and the EAC differ is on the likely impacts on litter of the carrier bag charge:  Keep Britain Tidy’s national litter surveys consistently show that thin carrier bags are only 0.03% of all littered items.  INCPEN has been working with KBT for many years to support public awareness and education on the anti-social behaviour of littering, and our members are very strongly supportive of anti-litter measures, but we do not believe that the carrier bag charge is likely to be an effective one.