%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%Excluding smaller retailers from a 5p plastic bag charge in England risks watering down moves to cut the use of single-use carrier bags, MPs said.
The parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee said the Government had ignored calls to change the levy scheme so that it included all retailers, in the same way a successful scheme in Wales had.
But the Government has admitted its proposed exemption for "biodegradable" plastic bags will not be included when the scheme is introduced in October 2015 - as no such bag currently exists.
In its report on bringing in a 5p charge on single-use bags in England, the EAC labelled the planned exemption for biodegradable bags as "risky and unnecessary", warning that it could lead to contamination of plastic recycling, undermine the reductions in bag use and send confused messages to shoppers.
In its response to the EAC report published today, the Government said there would always be a need for carrier bags, for example for impulse buys.
It said the proposed exemption for biodegradable bags represented a challenge to industry to develop a bag with fewer environmental impacts across its life-cycle and which could be identified and separated in waste and recycling systems.
The exemption would not be included in the legislation until standards for a genuinely biodegradable bag had been developed, so it would not come into effect when the scheme was introduced in October 2015, officials said.
But the Government has stuck to plans to exclude smaller shops from having to implement the charge to "reduce the burden on start-up and growing businesses in England at a time when the Government is supporting new growth in our economy".
And it confirmed the scheme would not apply to paper bags, but only apply to plastic bags, which take a long time to break down in the environment, can harm wildlife, and litter towns and countryside.
Environmental Audit Committee chairwoman Joan Walley said: "The 5p bag charge is the right solution - it will reduce litter, cut carbon emissions and reduce waste.
"Despite our committee's recommendations, the Government has decided not to apply the charge across the board, but to go ahead with its proposed exemptions. That risks diluting the benefits of the charge.
"The decision to only include large retailers is particularly short-sighted and ignores calls from all of the main small retailer organisations to be included in the scheme.
"I am pleased, however, that the Government has conceded that the proposed exemption for biodegradable plastic bags could cause problems for the UK's recycling industry and will now not be included when the charge is introduced next year."
She added: "The Government should think again about an exemption for small businesses. The Government says simply that some trade bodies are opposed.
"The Government should tell us which trade bodies are against, so that we can see exactly what the evidence says for ourselves."
Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle said: "For months the Tories' Environment Secretary Owen Paterson delayed the introduction of a plastic bag levy because he wanted an exemption for biodegradable bags, even though scientists said this was a flawed policy that would damage the environment and the recycling industry.
"He was forced into an embarrassing U-turn on his fantasy biodegradable bags and now he has undermined the scheme by exempting some retailers. This is an unscientific mess from a Government that is allergic to science."
The Break the Bag Habit campaign, backed by organisations including Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Surfers against Sewage, criticised the failure to include paper bags.
Campaigners said the move ignored evidence that fast food retailers used paper bags for their products and it was one of the most commonly littered items. They have a negative impact on the environment due to the carbon emissions in the distribution.
Samantha Harding, on behalf of the Break the Bag Habit campaign, said: "The Government's commitment to blundering on with a scheme at odds to all professional advice is mystifying and frustrating.
"How is it possible to ignore the advice it's been given, including from within Parliament itself? The result is it's making a hash out of something very simple.
"It's not too late for the Government to get this right. It just needs to leave politics aside and do what it's supposed to do - create a workable policy that delivers the best social, economic and environmental benefits.
"We urgently want to see paper bags and small retailers included in the scheme."
10 tricks supermarkets use to get you to spend more
MPs hit at plastic bag tax ruling
The subtle manipulation starts as soon as you enter the store when you are assailed by the smell of flowers and fresh bread, which are often placed near the door. The smell is intended to put you in a good mood and to get your salivary glands working. You are also more likely to pick up these higher-ticket items when your cart is empty.
Similarly, fresh produce like fruit and vegetables (one of the most profitable sections at the supermarket) is also usually at the front because the bright colours are more likely to lift your mood than bland cartons and cans. Mist is sometimes sprayed on the fruit and veg to make them look fresh but can actually make them rot faster.
Supermarkets do their best to spread staples far apart to force shoppers to walk through the whole store and lead them into temptation (meat in the back right hand corner, dairy in the back left hand corner).
(Industry experts claim that this is for logistical reasons. Milk needs to be refrigerated straight away and the lorries unload at the back. That does not explain why other staples like eggs are at the back.)
In most stores customers move from right to left. Some speculate this is because in many countries, including the US, people drive on the right. Also, most people tend to be right-handed so this feels more natural. "It is the left hand that pushes the cart, and the right hand that is our grabbing hand," says Underhill. Due to this flow, the things you are most likely to purchase tend to be on the right hand aisle while promotions on the left are designed to help shift the less popular goods.
Pricier items are placed at eye height. The cereal aisle is a good example, where healthier cereal is at the top, big bags of oats and other bargain cereals are generally on the bottom shelf and more expensive, big-name brands are at eye level – easy to see and reach. Some items are deliberately placed at children's eye height, such as highly-advertised cereals. You cannot assume that items on sale at the end of an aisle are a good deal. Those endcaps are sold specifically to companies trying to promote a product, observes Underhill, consumer expert and author of What Women Want: The Science of Female Shopping.
The music you hear is not just a random playlist. Dubbed 'Muzak,' it is carefully selected by an 'audio architect' who has analysed the store's demographic. Douglas Rushkoff, author of Coercion: Why we listen to what they say (1999), says grocery shoppers respond best to Muzak that has a slower tempo, making a whopping 38% more purchases when it is played overhead. By contrast, fast-food restaurants use Muzak that has a higher number of beats per minute to increase the rate at which a person chews. There are 74 Muzak programmes in 10 categories, ranging from indie rock to hip-hop and classical, which are mapped out in 15-minute cycles that rise and fall in intensity using a technique known as 'stimulus progression,' writes Martin Lindstrom, marketing consultant and author of Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.
Shopping carts are getting bigger because research shows that consumers buy more when they can fit more in the cart. Multi-packs are also getting bigger, because the more people buy, the more they tend to consume. If you used to buy a six-pack of coke and drink six cans a week but now buy a 12-pack because that's the new standard size, you're probably going to start drinking 12 cans a week, Jeff Weidauer, former supermarket executive and vice president of marketing for retail services firm Vestcom, told Reader's Digest. Customers think that when they buy in bulk, they get a better deal. But that's not always the case. Work it out yourself, and only buy as much food as you can eat before it goes off.
Supermarket pricing is often described as a "dark art". Are offers like 'Was £3, Now £2' or 'Half Price' genuine? In Britain, supermarkets have been caught out on putting up prices shortly before discounting them heavily. The Office of Fair Trading clamped down on 'yo-yo pricing' and eight major supermarkets (Aldi, Co-Op, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons,Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose) signed up to a set of principles drawn up by the watchdog in late 2012. The principles also say that pre-printed value claims such as 'Bigger Pack, Better Value' must be true.
However even with those principles, the question is whether products were ever priced realistically. Two for one offers are a money illusion, as you may end up buying more than you need. The Office for National Statistics does not include two for one offers in its inflation numbers on the grounds that they are not a genuine discount, as consumers may not have wanted the second item.
Another well-practised trick is to make promotions very specific and put the sign next to a full-price item. Often customers get confused and end up grabbing the wrong item.
Lindstrom says the average consumer tends to remember the price of only four items: Milk, bread, bananas, and eggs. They often don't have the faintest idea whether they are getting a good deal or not. But the bulk of what shoppers buy they buy every week. So if you are really methodical and keep your old receipts, you would know when something is on sale and stock up then.
If you have a store loyalty card, supermarkets track your spending and send you targeted vouchers through the post to remind you to shop and purchase certain brands. This can work in your favour if you were going to buy them anyway, but might prompt you to buy something you didn't really want or need.
Watch out for 'speed bumps' of goods that go together – for example seasonal displays such as a bunch of Halloween-themed items - in aisles or at entrances. Sample stations along with recipes also slow you down and give you a taste of new products or lesser-known foods such as kale. Mobile displays, LED lighting, floor graphics, ceiling hangers or digital or video marketing are other common marketing tricks.
Chocolates and other sweets have long adorned checkout counters where bored kids are nagging their parents to buy them a treat. Supermarkets have come under pressure from the government to move chocolate away from checkouts and some have responded. Lidl has justbanned sweets and chocolate bars from the checkout of its 600 UK stores and vowed to replace them with dried fruit and oatcakes.