Plastic bags - Environmental Audit Committee Contents


1.  The Government has multiple aims for the plastic bag charging policy, including reducing emissions, waste, and litter, but has not adequately determined their relative priority. Before proceeding it should have undertaken a structured appraisal of the evidence on the potential environmental gains associated with each objective and the extent to which the charge and type of bag would secure these gains, along with an assessment of their associated risks and wider impacts. It needs to ensure its analysis is robust and accurate. (Paragraph 15)

2.  Given that the proposed English scheme would have more exemptions that the one in Wales, it is likely that the reduction in bag use would be lower than the 76% achieved in Wales. Without additional complexity from exemptions for small retailers and for biodegradable bags, it might achieve as large a reduction in bag use and littering. (Paragraph 20)

3.  The policy around the exemption for biodegradable bags appears rushed and taken before reviewing existing evidence or considering the concerns of all stakeholders. (Paragraph 54)

4.  It appears to us that Defra is trying to use innovation to justify a rushed and flawed policy proposal to allow an exemption for biodegradable bags. (Paragraph 59)

5.  Defra's proposed exemption for biodegradable bags is risky and unnecessary. The decision to exempt biodegradable bags was rushed and taken without considering its coherence with wider strategies for reducing and managing waste, and the exemption could also undermine the reduction in bag use from the 5p charge. It is important that the Government gets the proposals for the carrier bag charge right, as it is one of the simplest and most effective ways of reducing resource use and helping people act in a way that has wider environmental benefits. The Government's waste management strategy needs to be clear, consistent and easy to understand in order to secure reduced carbon emissions, improved rates of recycling and avoid contamination of waste disposal streams. Gains in other areas could be far more important than can be generated by bags alone. (Paragraph 68)

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Prepared 6 February 2014