LONDON (Aug. 1, 12 p.m. ET) — Environmental groups have called for a carrier bag tax to be introduced in England — a demand that has been roundly criticized by the plastics industry.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Surfers Against Sewage have all backed a levy on plastic carrier bags, but believe that the revenue raised should go to charity, not into government coffers.
The antibag campaigners point to Waste & Resources Action Programme's (Wrap) latest bag use figures, which show supermarket customers used around eight billion carrier bags in 2011, a 5.4 percent rise on the 7.6 billion in 2010.
"It's total nonsense to concentrate on figures such as numbers of bags used, which just feed the 'greenwash'," said Carrier Bag Consortium spokesman Peter Woodall. "The reality is that today's plastic supermarket bags are the most resource-efficient solution, they use higher levels of recycled material, are re-used by 80 percent of households and more likely than ever to be recycled through more than 5,000 collection points.
"We estimate that the carbon impact of such bags has fallen by 60 percent or more since our voluntary agreement commenced. Now we have Environment Agency lifecycle analysis which, when extrapolated, shows that the nation's annual consumption of plastic bags is equivalent to just two hours of flight activity at Heathrow," he continued.
"It's time the environmental movement tackled macro issues instead of bag bashing."
But Samantha Harding, CPRE Stop the Drop campaign manager, thinks a bag tax is a sensible environmental move. "Bag levies have been proven to work in Ireland and Wales," she said. "A levy is coming soon to Northern Ireland and Scotland is already consulting on introducing one. Why must the English countryside be the last to benefit from good environmental policies?"
According to the CPRE website "England [is] the only home nation not to have a single-use bag levy in place or to be actively seeking to implement one". Scotland's government is consulting on a possible bag tax but no decision has been made – it is entirely possible that a bag tax will be rejected.
A spokesman for CPRE said he supported the statement despite its obvious misrepresentation of the facts.