In the wake of repeated calls for a plastic bag levy to be introduced in England, Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman urged government to follow the Welsh model if a charge was absolutely necessary.

“Our members’ experience in Wales suggests that if introduced properly, compulsory carrier bag charging can reduce waste, save costs and cement retailers’ status in their communities,” he said.

“The Welsh scheme allows local shops to use the income from carrier bag charging to support good causes as they see fit, and does not impose unnecessary record-keeping and reporting requirements.”

Lowman also called for retailers to be allowed to provide input on the issue to help minimise impact.

“If a scheme was introduced in England on a similar basis, we would support it, but would urge detailed consultation to ensure unintended burdens are not placed on retailers.”

The Welsh Assembly introduced a 5p charge for single-use carrier bags in October 2011. All money collected can be donated to a charity of the retailer’s choice and stores with less than 10 employees do not have to keep records of the number of bags handed out.

According to ACS research, there has been a 71% reduction in carrier bag usage in Wales since the charge was introduced and the initial resistance from customers was due to poor communication. Welsh ACS members are now reporting minimal disruption now that the implementation period has been completed.

Recent WRAP figures showed that plastic bag use in England increased by 7.5% last year. Only Northern Ireland showed a higher increase over the same period (8.1%).