The Packaging and Films Association has condemned the latest announcement by Nick Clegg, MP concerning plans for a tax on “single-use carrier bags” by Autumn 2015 as a “political diversion".
Michael Flynn, chairman of the Carrier Bag Consortium (part of PAFA) says, “At a time when the government faces serious international issues and the UK retail sector continues to suffer from the difficult economic environment, we are deeply saddened that, yet again, taxes on carrier bags have risen up the political agenda. Our industry is already playing a full part in facing the nation’s recycling challenge and the Government’s attention and money should be directed to developing a fully sustainable UK recycling industry to stop exports of our ‘dumped waste’ and also reduce our reliance on landfill. This is obviously a symbolic political decision not an environmental or scientific one.”
Barry Turner, PAFA CEO, says, “This announcement sends many mixed messages and ignores the reality of Environment Agency studies that show plastic carriers have lower overall impacts than any other material when properly re-used and recycled. The encouragement being shown to so-called biodegradable bags is also wholly unsupportable as such bags are made to deliberately go to waste and are not currently regulated by any quality standards. It also sends the message that littering biodegradable bags will be acceptable when the reality is that small particles from discarded degradable bags are more likely to be ingested by wildlife."
“Also it is potentially anti-competitive to exempt smaller retailers particularly after the last four years during which the retailers have invested in infrastructure at front of store to allow consumers to return bags for recycling. This is a missed opportunity - the plastic carrier and the front of store return scheme could have been extended and further encouraged. Plastic carriers are also the product which offer the best opportunity to become a flagship for recycled content at a time when the UK Government is keen on increasing the recycling of all packaging materials. If the Government is set on legislation, some of these fundamental errors need to be addressed so that England doesn’t end up making the same mistakes as elsewhere - where taxes have been introduced with the intention of reducing environmental impacts only to do the exact opposite.”
On behalf of the industry, PAFA re-iterated its view that science does not support taxes on carrier bags which are already re-used by more than 70 percent of households. It also said that to avoid contravening EU competition law the tax would have to apply to all bag materials - not just plastic - and to all retailers.