Bag tax won’t work

A NEW INDUSTRY group has been formed to try and bury the idea of a plastic bag tax once and for all.


The Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA), the Packaging and Films Association (PAFA), the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) and the British Plastics Association (BPF) have joined forces to lobby Scottish and UK parliaments and politicians to abandon any thoughts of introducing mandatory charges on carrier bags.


The aim, said the group, is to put “science over spin” when it comes to “emotive attacks” on carrier bags.


FPA chairman Neil Whittall said: We do not accept that a charge on single use carrier bags is the appropriate way of dealing with litter, which is a social problem.  The continued attack on packaging is a distraction from other issues that are of greater environmental impact. We will continue to campaign for more on-the-go recycling facilities and give our support to those organisations who work to persuade the public to use these facilities and be responsible for their disposal of litter.”


The FPA also said that to expect customers to bring ‘bags for life’ when they buy items from coffee shops and take-away units is “unrealistic”.


“Whilst we accept any products purchased on-the-go can be the subject of anti-social littering, we cannot and should not be made responsible for such litter,” said chief operating officer Martin Kersh.


“The reality is that purchasing from take away units and coffee shops is mostly an act of impulse – so the prospect of food-to-go customers turning up with a bag-for-life is unrealistic. It makes more sense to continue to campaign for more recycling on-the-go facilities.”


The UK Government has been debating the merits of a plastic bag tax for many years. The Lib Dems favour the tax, which has already been introduced in Wales, but the Chancellor is thought to oppose it.


However, a final decision is expected once the Government has had a look at similar schemes in the devolved administrations. Recycling Minister Lord de Mauley confirmed the current situation to Parliament in October.


“We are monitoring developments in other parts of the UK, including the results from the introduction of the charging scheme in Wales, together with Northern Ireland’s plan to launch a charge from April 2013. We are also interested in the outcome of the Scottish consultation on a charge.”


However, the new industry group, which is now backing 10 years of work by PAFA’s Carrier Bag Consortium (CBC), argues that the Government and the popular press should be building on the success of the voluntary industry code and recognise that small subsequent increases in usage are more than offset by the other steps taken to reduce impacts.


Data released by Wrap in July suggested that carrier bag use had risen 5.4% in 2011.


However, the group said this was to be expected given that in difficult economic times shoppers eke out their budgets and shop more frequently.


The group also suggests there are “far more important” macro environmental issues that require immediate attention if the UK is to ensure a sustainable and secure future for generations to come.  It believes a disproportionate amount of time, cost and effort is spent on carrier bags, “which don’t even make up 1% of the average person’s carbon footprint”.