Her Majesty the Queen reiterated the need for the government to reduce the number of plastic carrier bags by introducing a 5p levy from 2015 in her final speech today (4 June) during the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition’s current term of office.
The Queen said: “My government will continue to implement major reforms to the electricity market and reduce the use of plastic carrier bags to help protect the environment.”
Discarded plastic bags are a waste of resource and a very visible form of littering and can cause injury to marine wildlife and harm the marine environment.
According to statistics in the Queen’s speech briefing, in 2012 alone, over 7bn single-use plastic carrier bags were given out in England by supermarkets, or 133 per person.
In October 2015, the Government will introduce a 5p charge on all single-use plastic carrier bags in England. There is already a similar 5p charge on single-use bags in Wales and Northern Ireland, and Scotland is expected to introduce a charge later in 2014.
Evidence from the Welsh and Northern Irish carrier bag charges suggests that this will significantly reduce the number of plastic bags distributed in this country. Wales saw a 76 percent decrease in single-use carrier bag distribution in the year following the charge.
“Our main aim remains to reduce the distribution of plastic bags, and tackle waste and littering, with reuse and eventual recycling being important secondary aims”
The briefing states: “It is clear that a charge of 5p on plastic bags is enough to significantly reduce the number that people use and reduce the damage they cause.”
In England, the charge will only apply to single-use plastic bags, as these are the vast majority of bags distributed. Paper bags are less than 0.1 percent of carrier bags distributed in the UK by the seven major supermarkets, and plastic bags take longer than paper bags to degrade in the natural environment.
Small and medium-sized businesses will be exempt from the charge to avoid imposing burdens on start-up and growing businesses in England at a time when the Government is supporting new growth in our economy.
Retailers will be expected to donate the proceeds of the charge to good causes and we are looking into developing a voluntary agreement with retailers to cover this.
Organisations will be required to publish data to show customers what the proceeds are being used for.
“Our main aim remains to reduce the distribution of plastic bags, and tackle waste and littering, with reuse and eventual recycling being important secondary aims,” the briefing states.
Johnathan Short, ECO Plastics – “Revenue from the 5p plastic bag charge should be invested in a public awareness campaign to increase household recycling across the UK for the economic and environmental benefit of local communities”
Exemption for biodegradable bags is a challenge to UK industry to produce a genuinely biodegradable bag that meets defined criteria and can be identified and separated in waste recovery and treatment operations.
Government launched a research competition to encourage innovative solutions to developing more biodegradable bags and to look at separation techniques.
Commenting, Johnathan Short, Founder and Deputy Chairman of ECO Plastics, says: “Revenue from the 5p plastic bag charge should be invested in a public awareness campaign to increase household recycling across the UK for the economic and environmental benefit of local communities. Recycled waste is valuable and communities should be benefiting from it, yet the greatest barrier to effective recycling is still public confusion about what can and cannot be recycled.
“Research shows that people recycle more when they understand what can be recycled, where it goes, what it becomes and how it benefits the local community. A crystal clear communications campaign to get this information to every household is essential if we are to drive up recycling rates and meet our national recycling targets. ECO Plastics urges the revenue to be invested in projects like RECOUP’s Plastics Please campaign, set to launch later this year, and get Britain recycling more.”