Town stores beat rest on bags tax
12:30pm Wednesday 18th September 2013 in Latest News
A NATIONAL shopping bag levy for retailers is to come into force in 2015, but some Swindon shops are ahead of the game.
The scheme received publicity after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg announced it at the party conference in Glasgow last weekend, and it may become law after the next General Election.
Customers could have to pay 5p for every plastic bag they get from shops in an effort to reduce waste and aid the environment by encouraging people to reuse bags.
Plastic bags are said to form a large proportion of the town’s household waste, which costs Swindon Council £100 per tonne.
Swindon councillor Richard Hurley, the cabinet member for Public Protection, Housing and StreetSmart, said: “Plastic bags are a relatively uncommon type of litter on streets, as people tend to use them to carry things home, unlike food wrappings, such as crisp packets, cans and takeaway packages, which are often discarded.
“Plastic carrier bags do, however, form a significant amount of household waste, which ultimately ends up in landfill as they cannot currently be recycled as part of our plastics collection service.
“Landfill tax costs the council around £100 per tonne – which equates to approximately 105,500 plastic bags.”
The Deputy Prime Minister’s plan is already active in Wales and WH Smith, which has its head offices in Swindon, claim that it’s reduced the number of 1p bags being distributed there by 40 per cent, with a 24 per cent reduction for the UK last year.
The money generated from all of the UK bags goes to the Woodlands Trust. A WH Smith spokesman said: “WH Smith’s donations have enabled the Woodland Trust to plant over 100,000 trees since 2007.”
The proposed law has received support from North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson.
“I think it is a great idea and had pushed for it in Parliament. I also think it is right that the money will go to environmental charities like Keep Britain Tidy,” said Mr Tomlinson on his Facebook page.
Jo Draper, a 19-year-old student from West Swindon and regular shopper, said: “I buy a lot of stationery for my studying so I shop in WH Smith a fair bit. I suppose paying 5p over and over adds up eventually; it makes sense to reuse bags.”
WH Smith was one of the first stores to embrace waste management in this manner and now charges 1p for a single-use bag and 5p for a better quality bag.
Several stores in the UK offer ‘bags for life’ and others charge a small amount for their carrier bags, including Marks & Spencer at 5p and 10p and Aldi at 3p and 9p.
Not everyone is content with the idea though. “The economy has to be priority over the environment at the moment,” said Alex Brown, 25, of Stratton. “If people can’t afford to live then they can’t do anything noble like saving the planet.
“It makes me feel a little more comfortable that the revenue from the bags will go to charity but I still don’t think that now is the right time to implement this.”
The potential legislation will only affect retailers which employ more than 250 people.
However, this has received criticism by the British Retail Consortium as unfair to businesses having to make the change and slowing down the progress it could make for the environment if all retailers were bound by it.
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