Scotland and Northern Ireland could join Wales in introducing a mandatory charge for plastic bags.

The Welsh Assembly’s proposals for a charge (Convenience Store, July 10) were criticised by retailers who believe voluntary measures to reduce bag use are working - a claim backed up by government figures released last week which show that the seven largest supermarkets have reduced bag usage by 48% since 2006.

However, environmental groups have challenged the Scottish Government to bring in a charge to reduce the one billion plastic bags handed out annually in the country, saying it has the power to introduce a retail levy thanks to the recent passing of the Sottish Climate Change Bill.

A spokesman for the Scottish government said that “ministers have made it clear that they prefer the voluntary route to reducing use,” although Lib Dem MSP Mike Pringle said that Scotland could have been the first British country to introduce a bag charge.

Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister Edwin Poots said that he will consider a plastic bag tax if the existing voluntary arrangements did not lead to a significant reduction in bag use.

Wholesaler Henderson’s has introduced a charge at 13 Spar stores in Northen Ireland as part of a trial scheme which will last three months with a planned roll-out throughout the province. All money collected through the scheme will be donated to the NSPCC. 

The Association of Convenience Stores and the British Retail Consortium both oppose a mandatory levy.
ACS’ James Lowman said: “A bag tax will make people think twice about popping into the local shop, and the result will be more dedicated and car borne shopping trips. In this event the bag tax would actually do more harm than good.”