i Deputy Editor's Letter: Goodbye to free carrier bags

 

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The Independent Online

 

First came the Republic of Ireland, then Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, with England propping up the table. While this could be misread as the latest FIFA world football rankings, I am, of course, talking about Nick Clegg’s announcement that shoppers will be charged 5p for single-use carrier bags.

While some will be outraged at yet another demand on already squeezed household budgets, others will be puzzled as to why it has taken so long for the levy to be introduced in England – even now we will have to wait until 2015, with Scotland having already committed itself to October 2014.

As usual when a decision like this is taken, no one is happy. Opponents obviously object to paying for something which has been free until now, but even those in favour say it doesn’t go far enough, calling for a complete ban on their use in favour of paper bags, to raising the charge to 50p or forcing supermarkets to provide only biodegradable bags.

When the policy was introduced in Northern Ireland last April there was an 80 per cent reduction in plastic bag usage, more than the 75 per cent drop for Wales in 2011.

When you realise that more than seven billion carrier bags were issued by supermarkets in England last year, many of which ended up in landfills or scattered around our streets, not to mention the impact on wildlife, you realise the difference that it could make. Anything which makes us think twice about throwing them away and encourages us to take our own bags on the weekly shop must be a good thing.

Now the next thing to tackle – and arguably just as pressing an issue – is getting the supermarkets  themselves to rid our produce of unnecessary shrink wrapping.

*****

I mustn’t forget to thank you for your correspondence during the past two weeks - it’s always a privilege writing in this slot. But I’m sure you’ll welcome Oly back tomorrow.

i@independent.co.uk

Twitter.com: @jonesrhodri

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