Carrier bag charge “a mess” say MPs on Environmental Audit Committee


The proposed carrier bag charge in England is a “complete mess”, according to MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee.

With the Government planning to introduce a 5p charge on carrier bags in 2015, the committee has said that the number of exemptions has made it overly complicated.


Small businesses will be exempt, as will biodegradable and paper bags.

Committee chair Joan Walley MP said: “Minister have managed to make a complete mess of their planned carrier bags charge by making it unnecessarily complicated.

“Carrier bags litter our streets and harm wildlife, and the Government is right to want to reduce their use. But Defra seems to have made decisions about the design of this scheme that were based more on wishful thinking than hard evidence.

“Biodegradable bags are not as green as they first sound. We heard that they can do as much harm to wildlife as normal plastic bags and could cause big problems for the UK recycling industry, which would have trouble separating and processing the different material.”

MPs on the committee noted that trade bodies representing small retailers, including the National Federation of Newsagents, Association of Convenience Stores and the British Retail Consortium, oppose the proposed exemption for retailers with less than 250 employees as it would distort competition and cause confusion for businesses and customers. All three said that their members would like to participate in the proposed charging scheme but those with less than 10 employees should have a reduce reporting regime as in Wales.

The report from the committee also noted that paper bags could have greater emissions than plastic bags.

Joan Walley added: “Experience from Ireland and Wales shows these schemes are popular and can make a real difference.

“Before the Government reaches the check-out with this policy, it needs to drop the exemptions and keep it simple to help shoppers do the right thing.

“This needn’t be difficult. Simple schemes in Wales and Ireland have dramatically reduced bag use, and had positive environmental impact. It’s not too late to start listening and to re-think these flawed plans.”