Stores welcome plastic bags charge

Plastic bagsSupermarkets have broadly welcomed Government plans to introduce a compulsory 5p charge on plastic bags.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who announced the policy as the Liberal Democrat conference began in Glasgow, said he hoped firms would give the cash to charities.

The scheme, intended to discourage the use of environmentally damaging plastic bags, is expected to begin in autumn 2015, after the next election.

A Tesco spokesman said that although the proposals were at an early stage, the company was keen to discuss them with the Government.

She added: "We are committed to reducing the use of single use plastic carrier bags and welcome the opportunity to discuss the Government's plans in more detail."

Marks & Spencer has had the charge in place since May 2008.

A spokesman said: "The 5p charge has helped us reduce carrier bag use by 75% in our food halls. That's over two billion fewer bags since its introduction in 2008 and over £6 million has gone to good causes as a result."

In 2007, the store chain used 464 million carrier bags in its food halls, but in 2012 the figure had fallen to 116 million.

A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium - the lead trade association for the industry - said: "The retail sector accepts and acts on its leadership role in reducing environmental impact and waste.

"Working with our customers we have already succeeded in significantly reducing carrier bag usage.

"If the Government has decided that it wants further and faster reductions, the way it can achieve this is through legislation.

"The BRC is keen to work closely with Government to understand how any proposals that come forwards will be implemented.

"Single use carrier bags account for less that 1% of household waste in the UK, so it is important that we remain focused on the wider issues of waste as well.

"Any legislation should be proportionate and, as far as possible, consistent across the UK to avoid confusion for customers and businesses."

Charges are already in place in Wales and Northern Ireland, with Scotland to follow suit next year.