British Retail Consortium: Government plans to charge for carrier bags with an overly complex system will confuse shoppers

LONDON, 2014-6-17 — /EPR Retail News/ — Retailers have expressed serious disappointment that Government plans to charge for carrier bags will ignore the advice of the industry and a key Parliamentary committee and press ahead with an overly complex system that will confuse shoppers.

Retailers have consistently maintained that plans to charge 5p for carrier bags to cut waste, litter and carbon emissions must be kept simple for the scheme to work. This could be achieved simply by adopting the principle of schemes already operating effectively in other parts of the UK.

Exemptions for small retailers and excluding paper and biodegradable bags will make it confusing for consumers as they will be asked to pay for a bag in one shop but not in the shop next door. The BRC’s SME retail members have made it clear that they do not want to be exempted.

Despite calls for the charge to apply to all single use carrier bags, the Government has confirmed that the charge will apply to single use plastic carrier bags only. This makes no environmental sense and an Environment Agency study found that single use plastic bags have the lowest environmental impact of any type of bag. The same study found that a paper bag has to be used at least three times to have less environmental impact than a single use plastic bag.

A BRC spokesperson said

“A carrier bag charge is already working in Wales and Northern Ireland and will be introduced in Scotland in October and it makes no sense to do something different. Why not use the same scheme and keep it simple and effective?”

“If we are to have regulation it needs to work for consumers, the environment and retailers. We are disappointed that the Government has chosen not to listen to the Environment Audit Committee, environment groups and retailers. This is poor regulation that will cause confusion for customers and businesses.”

Notes to Editors

1. The 5 pence charge for single use plastic carrier bags is due to be introduced in England on 1 October 2015.

2. The House of Commons Environment Audit Committee (EAC) has today published Defra’s response to its report and recommendations on the carrier bag charge. The EAC report can be downloaded at:  www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmenvaud/861/86102.htm

3. The Queen’s Speech on 4 June 2014 confirmed the following exemptions to the proposed 5 pence charge:
– retailers with 250 employees or fewer;
– single use carrier bags made from materials other than plastic (e.g. paper);
– biodegradable bags that meet defined criteria (this exemption would be introduced after the charge is in place).

4. The Environment Agency study on the life cycle assessment of supermarket carrier bags was published in 2011 and can be downloaded at:  www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/291023/scho0711buan-e-e.pdf

5. A 5 pence single use carrier bag charge already exists in Wales and Northern Ireland and will be introduced in Scotland on 20 October 2014. These charges apply to all single use carrier bags regardless of material type and to all retailers regardless of size.

Media contacts:
BRC Press Office: 020 7854 8953
Out of Hours: 07921 605544

British Retail Consortium, 21 Dartmouth Street, Westminster, London, SW1H 9BP. 020 7854 8900. info@brc.org.uk.