A proposal that Scotland should impose a tax on retail plastic bags to reduce waste has been rejected as unworkable by the Scottish Parliament's influential environment committee.
A full parliamentary vote on the measure is expected before year's end.
The unanimous committee decision was welcomed by leaders of Britain's plastic film and bag manufacturing sector. They promised the industry will work with retailers on a ``sound'' voluntary code of practice to ``reduce, reuse and recycle'' waste.
Barry Turner, chairman of the UK Carrier Bag Consortium, said a bag tax imposed in Ireland in 2002 simply drove the Irish to buy more plastic trash bags, after they were prevented from reusing retail carrier bags as trash bin liners.
The Irish tax also saw retailers switch to paper bags, resulting in more waste, since paper bags are far bulkier than plastic ones, he said.
``A tax on carrier bags in Scotland would have resulted in an extra [28.7 million pounds] going to landfill,'' Turner said in a news release.
``This debate was about honesty. It was about delivering the best environmental option and the Scottish environment committee was in a unique position to recognize the value of science over political spin,'' he said.
The Scottish bill, proposed in June 2005 by Parliament member Mike Pringle, proposed that retailers charge customers 10 pence (18 cents) per bag, with the proceeds to be spent on environmental projects.
Last year, the Scottish Parliament sought feedback on the rule from interested parties, including the bag and film industry.
In December, the committee published a detailed interim report on the issue, but requested further information from Pringle and Ross Finnie, Scottish environment minister. After considering their responses, the committee delivered its final report and recommendation in September.
Environment committee Chairwoman Sarah Boyack said her group welcomed the debate provoked by the bill, but questioned the measure's adequacy.
``The proposal seems very simple, but we found that the possible impacts of the levy are actually very complex on a whole range of issues. Implementing one measure in isolation doesn't give the flexibility to make sure the environment benefits,'' she said.
The committee concluded that a bag tax should be just one part of a comprehensive package of waste prevention measures and urged the government to include ``ambitious measures to reduce plastic bag use'' in its new strategy.
The packaging industry has been asked by Ben Bradshaw, Britain's environment minister, to work with retailers on a voluntary reduction, reuse and recycling code of practice.
``This is what we have always advocated. It works in Australia and, with the backing of consumer education, can work well in the U.K. without the need to resort to taxing people and causing greater environmental impacts in the process,'' said David Tyson, chief executive of Britain's Packaging and Industrial Films Association.