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Cameron warns retailers over carrier bags

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has warned retailers to cut the number of plastic bags that they hand out or face new legislation. Although he praised various programmes aimed at reducing the number of bags from retailers in recent years, he also expressed disappointment that some valuable work had been undone in the past year. This fact was highlighted in a recent Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) report, which showed that the number of plastic bags handed out in the UK in 2010 had increased by 6% over the previous year. Mr Cameron said, “That’s unacceptable and we need to do better. I want to see the numbers going in the right direction again.”

He warned that the government might be forced to follow the lead of Eire and Wales, which have introduced a carrier bag levy to tackle the problem. Shoppers in Wales are just getting used to a charge of at least 5p for single use bags, introduced on 1 October.

“I know that retailers want to do better too but if they don’t I will be asking them to explain why not,” said Mr Cameron. “They also need to know that the government has options at its disposal – including legislating as other countries have done. We will continue to look carefully at all options in order to make sure that we further reduce the use of single use plastic bags.”

The Carrier Bag Consortium (CBC) has condemned Mr Cameron’s threats, with a spokesman saying, “In the face of massive economic pressures it is a great shame that the Prime Minister is suggesting taxing the ordinary shopper, particularly when this flies in the face of the evidence from his own Environment Agency, which proves that the lightweight plastic bag is the best environmental choice if re-used – as it is by 76% of households – or recycled.” The CBC added that, despite the small recent increase in bag usage the UK, voluntary agreement has still reduced bag consumption by more than 40%.

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