Calls from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) and trade associations for all retailers to be included in the proposed carrier bag charge have been “ignored”.
In October 2015, the Government plans to introduce a 5p charge on plastic carrier bags, but this will not be applied to small- and medium-sized retailers.
This is despite recommendations from the EAC, Association of Convenience Stores, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents or the British Retail Consortium for the charge to be universal.
But in its response to the EAC, the Government has decided to carry on with the exemption for small businesses.
EAC chair Joan Walley MP said: “The 5p bag charge is the right solution – it will reduce litter, cut carbon emissions and reduce waste. Despite our Committee’s recommendations, the Government has decided not to apply the charge across the board, but to go ahead with its proposed exemptions. That risks diluting the benefits of the charge.
“The decision to only include large retailers is particularly short-sighted and ignores calls from all of the main small retailer organisations to be included in the scheme.”
However, the Government has also recognised that an exemption for biodegradable bags will not be introduced at the same time in October 2015 as there isn’t currently a suitable bag of this type on the market.
The EAC had warned that there could be problems for the UK recycling industry by the proposed exemption for biodegradable bags.
Joan Walley added: “I am pleased, however, that the Government has conceded that the proposed exemption for biodegradable plastic bags could cause problems for the UK’s recycling industry and will now not be included when the charge is introduced next year.”
ECO Plastics founder and deputy chairman Jonathan Short said that the Government should invest the proceeds from the 5p charge in a recycling awareness campaign.
He said: “The Government has missed an opportunity to take on board the Committee’s suggestion to collect revenue from the 5p plastic bag charge centrally, so that it can be spent on specific projects.
“That revenue should be invested in a public awareness campaign to increase household recycling across the UK for the economic and environmental benefit of local communities. Recycled waste is valuable and communities should be benefitting from it, yet the greatest barrier to effective recycling is still public confusion about what can and cannot be recycled.”