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British officials critical of slow bag tax introduction

By: Anthony Clark
PRW

January 9, 2014

Members of a committee within the United Kingdom's Parliament have slammed their government for delays on a bag tax.

The members of Parliament on the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs claim the tax will bring immediate environmental benefits.

"We are pleased that the department has finally agreed to impose a charge for single-use plastic bags in supermarkets and larger food retailers, but disappointed that the charge will not come into effect in England until 2015, despite evidence of its success in reducing plastic carrier bag usage in other parts of the (U.K.) We recommend it be implemented sooner," the members said in the DEFRA annual report, published in early January.

The government estimated that in 2012, supermarkets gave out more than eight billion bags across the U.K., adding up to an average of 120 bags per person. While the use of these bags in England has increased since 2010, usage was cut dramatically by the Republic of Ireland after charges were introduced there in 2002, the MPs noted.

A similar tax in Northern Ireland has reduced carrier bag usage since April 2013. Supermarkets in Wales reported a drop in use of up to 76 percent after a charging scheme was brought in two years ago.

"Reducing the number of single-use carrier bags which are given away is a quick win: reducing both waste and environmental pollution with little effort," the committee members said in the DEFRA report. "Given the evidence elsewhere, we recommend the early introduction of the charge."

The politicians added that when fully degradable plastic bags are available they should be exempt from any charge.