Compulsory charges for plastic bags rejected
Green activists in a Westcountry town where a campaign was won to ban carrier bags, have said they are "disappointed" the Government may not implement the policy across the rest of England.
Five years ago Modbury became the first town in Europe to be entirely free of plastic bags in a bid to become more green. All 43 shopkeepers in the South Hams town took part in the initiative, following a suggestion by journalist Rebecca Hosking, who lived in the town.
Ministers had said they were impressed by a pay-per-bag scheme introduced in Wales in 2011, which apparently reduced plastic bag use by 95%.
Legislation looked set to be rolled out across England to cut the damage caused by billions of discarded plastic bags.
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But a Conservative environment minister said the Government now thought the change was "not the best option" due to pressures on household budgets.
Richard Benyon told MPs: "We recognise the pressures on household budgets at this time; levying even a small charge may not be the best option."
South West-based Surfers Against Sewage was one of a number of campaign groups to demand a levy on single-use carrier bags. Ireland brought in a bag tax in 2002, since which there has been a 90% reduction in plastic bag use.
Jamie Pritchard-Barret, vice-president of Modbury and District Business Chamber, said: "I'm surprised and disappointed the Government has decided against the tax, because it would have been reasonably easy to sell without too much objection.
"Concerningly, the big retail stores have strong lobbying power on these issues.
"Our campaign in 2007 will become a lasting part of our history and it is something we're extremely proud of."
Parish councillor, Doreen Flood said: "We have been shouting for years for big supermarkets to charge for plastic bags because they are not biodegradable."
In 2008 Marks & Spencer became the first major retailer in the UK to announce a charge for plastic bags. Later in the year WH Smith also decided to scrap free bags.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "We want to work with retailers to help them lift their game to cut the number of bags they hand out. We are monitoring the results of the charging scheme in Wales and the outcome of the Scottish consultation on a charge."
Billions of bags are thrown away every year and just 6% are recycled. Campaigners are concerned that bags can end up in landfill, or polluting the countryside and oceans, where they can kill wildlife.