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I must admit that our Government has done little to please me over recent decades but I was happy when Her Majesty the Queen announced this week that the current government has finally made official its ongoing threats to introduce a plastic bag levy. The new legislation will force supermarkets and larger stores to impose a 5p charge for each plastic bag they hand over to customers; although to protect independent retailers, small and medium sized businesses with fewer than 500 employees, will be excluded.
The charge is expected to cut use of plastic bags by up to 80% and raise £millions a year for charities and good causes.
The Republic of Ireland, which introduced a bag levy in 2002, saw a 90% reduction in plastic bag use. Wales implemented a 5p charge which was imposed on all retailers - regardless of size, in 2011. The number of bags used there fell dramatically too – from 130 per person each year to just 22.
More than eight billion disposable bags are used in England each year. Research shows that these bags are kept for an average of 20 minutes but take 1,000 years to degrade. Each of us uses an average of 200 bags every year - which represents one bag a day for each household…
Escaped plastic bags blight our landscape and end up in rivers and lakes and in the sea, where they pose a serious threat to wildlife. Some three-quarters of seabirds and one third of fish in the English Channel have been found to be contaminated by plastic waste - much of it from bags. In the North Sea, the stomachs of 94% of birds contain plastic, while bags account for 73% of the plastic waste collected by trawlers along the coast of Tuscany.
Clearly these bags are doing enormous damage to the landscape and wildlife and I’m amazed that it’s taken so long for something to be done to address the problem. For despite Prime Minister David Cameron warning some time ago that unless stores significantly cut the numbers of bags being handed out, they would be forced to start charging customers – more of these bags are being used than ever before. I do wonder though, whether that’s because shoppers are taking advantage of the fact that the bags are currently free of charge, to stock up while they can? Whatever the reason, the latest news is going to prove good for us all.
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5th June 2014