Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced today (6 March) plans to remove all exemptions for single use bags in the next parliament, including paper and biodegradable bags.
As part of a new Nature Bill, included in its Five Green Laws, which is aimed at reducing the levels of litter in cities and the countryside, the exemptions could raise significant money for good causes and reduce the costs of cleaning up litter, the Lib Dems have said.
The plans aim to take an extra 3.5bn single-use plastic bags and 328m paper bags out of circulation each year.
Over the course of 10 years, removing exemptions will also deliver overall net benefits for SMEs of £300m and overall net benefits to consumers of almost £100m.
The 5p plastic bag charge due to take effect in October is expected to raise £730m and deliver £60m of savings a year in litter clean-up costs.
Nick Clegg – “Liberal Democrats will remove all single use bag exemptions, benefitting consumers, charities, small businesses, and the millions of families who enjoy our wildlife and countryside”
Restrictions on plastic bag charges have been imposed by Conservatives in coalition, despite backing from NGOs, consumers and some business groups to remove all exemptions, according to the Lib Dems.
The Nature Bill also includes:
- proposals for two further tranches of Marine Conservations Zones in English seas by 2015-2016
- creating a million square km “Shackleton Marine Reserve” in the south Atlantic, dedicated to the famous British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, buried in the South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands that forms part of the reserve
- publishing a 25-year “Nature of Britain” plan with clear recommendations for reversing the decline of species and their habitats like bees and other insects which pollinate crops.
The news comes only days after is was announced that the Lib Dems have launched a Zero Waste Bill, intended to boost the number of organisations prosecuted for illegal dumping while also introducing a higher, more consistent level of fines for fly-tippers who damage Britain’s environment.
The Party’s five green laws are:
- A Nature Bill: key measures include legal targets for biodiversity, clean air, clean water and access to green space, extending the Right to Roam and establishing new marine and coastal reserves.
- A Heating and Energy Efficiency Bill: key measures include building on the Green Deal with a national programme to raise the energy efficiency standards for all Britain’s households. We will legislate to boost renewable and district heating programmes and heat saving standards.
- A Zero Waste Britain Bill: key measures include establishing a “Stern Report” on resource use, with binding targets and a clear action plan to reduce waste and end biodegradable landfill.
- A Zero Carbon Britain Bill: key measures include introducing a decarbonisation target for electricity generation, expanding the powers of the Green Investment Bank and banning electricity generated from unabated coal.
- A Green Transport Bill: key measures include establishing a full network of charging points for electric cars, only allowing low emission vehicles on the roads from 2040 and reforming planning law to ensure new developments are designed around walking, cycling and public transport.
Commenting on the proposed Bill, Clegg said: “It is so important that we stop polluting our country and protect our natural spaces and wildlife. We cannot allow environmental issues to be ignored.
“The facts are simple; single use bags blight our towns and countryside, they trap and suffocate wildlife, and plastic bags take hundreds of years to degrade.
“The countdown to charging has begun, and by the time it arrives this autumn, reusable bags should increasingly be commonplace. As we get used to it, the hundreds of millions raised from the charge will go to charities.
“But we need to do much more. We need to go further and faster. This is why the Liberal Democrats will remove all single use bag exemptions, benefitting consumers, charities, small businesses, and the millions of families who enjoy our wildlife and countryside.”