Wales proposes 7p charge for single-use bags

4 June 2010

The number of single use carrier bags used in Wales looks set to plummet under Welsh Assembly Government proposals announced today (June 4) to introduce a seven pence charge for them from Spring 2011.

Welsh environment minister Jane Davidson, who launched the second consultation on a tax for single-use carrier bags, with reusable carrier bagsHowever, campaign groups have attacked the proposal, claiming existing voluntary agreements and recycling initiatives would have a better environmental impact than the planned tax.

The announcement of proposals for the tax on single-use carrier bags come as the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) looks to reduce the over 400 million carrier bags currently distributed in the retail sector in the country.

Welsh environment minister Jane Davidson will today launch a second consultation on the proposed tax today (June 4) at the Hay Festival for literature and arts, in a bid to gauge responses to the proposed seven pence charge.

Under the proposals, a seven pence charge would be placed on bags from Spring 2010. It had been anticipated that the WAG would look to introduce a tax of between five and 15 pence per bag under a four-month consultation launched in June 2009 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Consultation

The second round of consultation, which closes on August 2 2010, is also seeking views on whether there should be exemptions for certain types of bags used to carry unpackaged food or pharmacy medicines and whether there should be a voluntary agreement with retailers to ensure profits from the charge are passed to environmental or community projects.

Commenting on the proposed charge, Ms Davidson said: "Carrier bags are an iconic symbol of the throwaway society in which we live. Whilst I know that reducing our use of single use carrier bags is not going to solve all our environmental problems, the charge delivers an important message about the need for us to live much more sustainable lives.

"I believe the seven pence charge is high enough to encourage consumers to change their shopping habits but not so high that it will stop impulse shopping or create a significant burden when we have forgotten reusable bags.

"I am confident that the Welsh public will embrace the carrier bag charge and see it as positive step towards preserving our beautiful countryside and helping Wales to reduce its carbon footprint.

A study undertaken by environmental consultancy AEA in October 2009 claimed that there was "good evidence" for Wales to introduce a charge, and added that the WAG should follow an example set by the Republic of Ireland with its Plastax Levy in 2002 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Reuse

Responding to the WAG proposal, the Carrier Bag Consortium (CBC) - an alliance of carrier bag manufacturers - hit out at the proposed levy and claimed that the Welsh Assembly Government was "ignoring the science" by proceeding with plans for the charge.

A spokesman for the organisation told letsrecycle.com: "We don't believe that there is any such thing as a ‘single-use' carrier bag, as is claimed by the Welsh Assembly Government, as we know from Defra statistics that 80% are reused at least once for something or other, for things like bin bags."

The spokesman also pointed to a voluntary agreement put in place by WRAP with retailers over the past two years, which saw single-use carrier bag distribution fall by 48% compared to 2006 levels (see letsrecycle.com story).

"We know the number of bags being wasted and we know that people have been made to think about whether they need a bag, which is the primary principle for the tax being given by the Welsh Minister," he said.

Furthermore, the spokesman identified the growing number of recycling points at major supermarkets, which he said now totalled "over 3,000", which allow shoppers to deposit used bags into a dedicated container for recycling. The spokesman stressed: "What this will do is not help the environment at all."