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Trade group says UK government is exaggerating litter problem to justify bag tax

By: PRW

November 28, 2013

The United Kingdom's Packaging and Films Association (Pafa) has attacked government proposals for a plastic bag tax. Under the plan biodegradable bags would, however, be exempt.

The association's chief executive, Barry Turner, said: "The two major exemptions being proposed which favor biodegradable and paper bags seem wholly inconsistent with the stated aim to cut litter which in itself has been overstated by government.

"According to recent surveys by Keep Britain Tidy, the incidence of littering of grocery shopping bags has been falling year-on-year for the last four years and carrier bags fall towards the bottom of their list of most often littered items.

"Also, at this time the criteria that biodegradable plastic carriers are required to meet have not been made clear. This creates confusion and uncertainty whilst encouraging the use of materials which are made to deliberately go to waste."

Pafa said that lightweight plastic bags form a very small part of household waste – 0.02 percent (Defra/Wrap) – yet are the most hygienic way of containing kitchen waste.

It reiterated that plastic carriers ranked as low as 23rd out of more than 50 items found littering our streets (Keep Britain Tidy Survey) and were found at around only 3 percent of the sites surveyed. It said that, in terms of carbon impacts, the use of thin supermarket carrier bags equates to less than 0.1 percent of the average person's carbon footprint.

"The ironic timing of this latest Government proposal came just after they funded a project to enable the opening of the first plastic carrier bag recycling plant in the UK and set new and higher targets for plastic recycling," said Turner.

"Surely if there is to be yet another charge on our hard-pressed householders any exemptions should be those that reinforce reuse, allow recycling, already use recycled materials and effectively minimize and conserve resources. The much maligned plastic supermarket bag already ticks all these boxes. It's time we binned the myths behind plastic carrier bags."