The Welsh government has called for a compulsory bag charge to be introduced throughout the rest of the UK following the success of its own scheme.
A year on from the introduction of the charge, environment minister John Griffiths urged Scotland and England to follow the Welsh lead. “One year on from the introduction of our 5p bag charge it is obvious it has made a real difference to shopping habits of people here,” he said.
“Checkouts across Wales are now full of people using their own bags to carry shopping rather than paying 5p for a new one, and it is really heartening to see people developing sustainable shopping habits. The Welsh experience proves if you want to effectively reduce carrier bag use, a charge really is the best way to go. I can see no reason why the charge wouldn’t work just as well in other parts of the UK.”
Northern Ireland is set to introduce a 5p levy in April 2013 which will rise to 10p in 2014 while the Scottish government is currently working through the results of a three-month public consultation on the issue.
British Retail Consortium spokesman Richard Dodd said compulsory charging would be a “brutal approach” and suggested a voluntary and incentivised scheme that offered rewards to customers who bring their owns bags.
The 5p charge was introduced in October 2011 with retailers able to give the money raised to a charity of their choice. The number of bags handed out has significantly dropped with some Welsh stores reporting a reduction of up to 96%.
A recent survey by the Welsh government revealed that 70% of the population view the charge as positive. The government also estimates that the charge has raised “hundreds of thousands of pounds” for charity since its introduction but cannot give an accurate figure as stores with fewer than 10 employees do not have to keep records for the levy.