Supermarkets should all charge for plastic carrier bags

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During the half-term break I enjoyed a family holiday to Anglesey. As we were on a self catering break, trips to the supermarket were, unfortunately, inevitable and in my relaxed holiday state we forgot to take any carrier bags with us. In England this oversight wouldn’t matter, but in Wales, unbeknown to myself or my family, the Government in October 2011 introduced a minimum charge on all single use carrier bags of 5p.

So as we were doing our “big shop” for the holiday, the Magee family purse left the supermarket 30p lighter! Now I know that’s not by any stretch of the imagination a huge amount, but I must admit, it did aggrieve me slightly to have to pay this extra charge. It wasn’t a case of being perturbed because I disagree with the Bag for Life concept, it’s more that it was unexpected.

But, I started to think what a great idea! Why isn’t it a blanket policy throughout Great Britain? Despite my best efforts, I still sometimes forget to take my reusable bags to the supermarket and have to rely on the single use carrier bags in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Booths etc. If there was a standard charge of 5p I probably would be more likely to take bags with me, despite however much of a rush I’m in.

I only know of one supermarket in Clitheroe – Lidl –that charges for single use carrier bags and nationally, Marks and Spencer. But what is the delay in introducing a minimum charge in England and thereby reduce the waste caused by the more than six billion plastic bags given away every year?

The scheme in Wales has been so successful it has reduced the number of plastic bags issued at tills by 96%. The scheme has also been adopted by Northern Ireland and the Scottish Government is in talks about introducing its own scheme.

Earlier this year, editor of The Grocer magazine Adam Leyland said: “Enough is enough. It’s time all British supermarkets charged for plastic bags… The case for the defence is, well, indefensible.”

And last year David Heath, Environment Minister, said the Coalition would make a decision on whether to introduce a compulsory charge on plastic bags “sooner rather than later”.

Those readers wanting to take the concept further could always follow my mum’s lead. When I popped in to see her this lunchtime, hanging on her washing line wasn’t the usual bed sheets, but a small plastic sandwich bag which she had washed out and intended to use again! Now that’s what I call being “green”.