Put plastic bag tax back on the political agenda

Put Plastic Bag Tax Back on the Political Agenda

Reusabags.com calls on the Prime Minister to put the plastic bag tax back on the agenda.

Last year Prime Minister Gordon Brown threatened retailers to cut plastic bags or else he would introduce a plastic bag tax. Unfortunately for wildlife and consumers, the major retailers have negotiated themselves a reprieve.

While Number 10 had their Christmas groceries delivered in Waitrose plastic bags, Britain’s leading supermarkets avoided facing a bag tax.

Britain’s leading supermarkets – Asda, the Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield, Tesco and Waitrose – recently became involved in a government agreement with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) which promises to cut plastic bag use by 50% by next Spring.

However, Reusabags.com strongly doubts retailers and the government have the environment’s best intentions at heart when pledging these cut bags. We can’t help but be suspicious that the onslaught of marketing gimmicks to persuade customers to reuse bags that we saw in 2008 will continue throughout 2009.

Loyalty card points for bringing your own bags; 25% percent biodegradable plastic used in each bag; branded “bags for life” sold at the counter.

All of these marketing initiatives may seem to be positive nevertheless they are just consumer-catching gimmicks that are not drastically cutting plastic bags use but increasing supermarket’s profits.

First of all who is monitoring the cut on plastic bags? Not the government! The self regulation means the actual reduction of plastic bags is never going to be accurate.

Secondly, the supermarkets are making significant profits from alternative “bags for life” which should really go back into cleaning up the existing plastic bag problem which was proposed by Gordon Brown last year – instead the money goes back to shareholders.

The most effective way to see a dramatic decrease in plastic bags is for the government to do what many international governments, including China, are doing and ban plastic bags or introduce plastic bag taxes.

At least 40 countries have imposed, or are considering, bans.

According to the UN environment programme based in Nairobi, the plastic problem is now “on the agenda of almost every African country”.

The growing global rejection of the bag is now reaching some of the remotest parts of the world. Papua New Guinea, Bhutan, Zanzibar and Botswana have all banned bags and introduced taxes.

Densely populated Taiwan, which is running out of landfill space, has not only banned bags but has stopped fast food restaurants and supermarkets issuing plastic knives, forks and cups.

Attitudes are now changing fast in industrialised countries. Ireland took the lead in Europe in 2002 with a tax which saw a dramatic 90% drop in plastic bag use.

Reusabags.com calls on the Prime Minister to put the plastic bag tax back on the agenda. Much of Europe already relies on customers bringing their own bags. Why in the United Kingdom are we so slow in cutting back on the plastic bag use?

Over Christmas, the Prime Minister was forced to reveal in an interview that he and his wife Sarah often order through supermarket websites and receive “a lot of unnecessary packaging and plastic bags” despite last year announcing plans to wipe out the 13billion plastic bags given out by Britain’s shops each year and ordering supermarkets to cut the number they give away from 9.1billion to 3.9billion.

Greg Barker, Shadow Minister for Climate Change, said: “It appears that all the noise Gordon Brown was making last year was just for short-term headlines. It’s a shame that he doesn’t do more to make it easier for everybody to use fewer plastic bags and waste less.”

While nearly every piece of plastic ever made still exists today, 2009 will see a further 1 million birds die from strangulation and plastic bag consumption. 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish will die. Turtles, dolphins and killer whales will choke or starve by confusing plastic bags for jellyfish.

Meanwhile, with the support of the Labor government, the supermarket giants in the United Kingdom will continue getting away with this environmental torture.

To find out consumer opinions on introducing a plastic bag tax, Reusabags has set up a survey at www.reusabags.com/survey

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