Carrier bag charge works, says Welsh MP

2nd October 2012

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  • Retail and wholesale ,
  • Minimisation ,
  • Waste ,
  • Prevention & Control ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management



Forcing shoppers pay for plastic carrier bags is the 'best way' to change their behavior and cut bag use, according to Welsh environment minister John Griffiths

One year after the Welsh Assembly introduced a mandatory 5p charge for single-use carrier bags, the number of bags being used in Wales has fallen by as much as 96% in some retail sectors. At the same time, the rest of UK has seen the number of bags used continue to rise.

“The Welsh experience proves that if you want to effectively reduce carrier bag use, a charge really is the best way to go,” said Griffiths “It is really heartening to see people in Wales developing sustainable shopping habits and being much less wasteful.”

According to the Welsh Assembly’s figures supermarkets have been most successful in cutting carrier use, with the number of bags being used falling by 70%-96%. Home improvement stores report a 95% reduction, while fashion retailers have cut bag use by 68%–75%.

“I have been really impressed by the ease with which Welsh retailers and shoppers have adjusted to the charge. Their efforts have been key to its success and I can see no reason why the charge wouldn’t work just as well in other parts of the UK,” said Griffiths.

Alongside cutting the number of bags being used and then thrown away, the scheme has resulted in more than £875,000 being donated to environmental charities, with firms including Asda, Argos and McDonalds, donating the 5p charge to Keep Britain Tidy and the RSPB.

Wales is currently the only devolved government to have implemented a charge for carrier bags, although Northern Ireland will begin charging for bags from April next year.

The Scottish parliament, meanwhile, has just closed a three-month consultation on introducing a charging scheme, which it estimates will cut overall bag usage by 80% and raise £5 million.

The news came as the Federation of Small Businesses urged the UK government to exempt smaller firms from carrier bag charging schemes, arguing that they imposed a “heavy administrative burden” on a struggling sector.


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